Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Speaking of Which

I've been reading my old paperback copy of Eric Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 (1962, my paperback is a New American Library pocket edition I've had for 50+ years -- retail $1.25, so it's bound as densely as it was written. I've always been reluctant to read old books, but this one may get me to change my mind, or at least continue to his sequels. The first chapter, in particular, describes the European world so compactly yet completely that you approach the French Revolution thinking you know all the background you need. The next three chapters -- one on the industrial revolution in Britain, the next on France, and a third on the Napoleonic wars -- are every bit as compact and comprehensive.

Much of the book is quotable, but I was especially struck by the line at the bottom of this paragraph, from Part II, where he goes back and surveys how ownership and use of land changed during those revolutions (p. 191, several previous lines added for context):

For the poor peasant it seemed a distinctly hard bargain. Church property might have been inefficient, but this very fact recommended it to the peasants, for on it their custom tended to become prescriptive right. The division and enclosure of common field, pasture, and forest merely withdrew from the poor peasant or cottager resources and reserves to which he felt he (or he as a part of the community) had a right. The free land market meant that he probably had to sell his land; the creation of a rural class of entrepreneurs, that the most hard-hearted and hard-headed exploited him, instead or, of in addition to, the old lords. Altogether the introduction of liberalism on the land was like some sort of silent bombardment which shattered the social structures he had always inhabited and left nothing in its place but the rich: a solitude called freedom.

The significance and relevance here has to do with the phenomenon where former peasants leaned to the right politically, taking more comfort in the memory of feudal bonds to lord and church. Liberalism here means proto-capitalism, or what CB MacPherson more descriptively called "possessive individualism." The later Luddite revolt grew from a similar impulse, as does Trumpism today. In all these cases, the satisfaction of joining the right is purely emotional, as the right is every bit as controlled by people who saw in capitalism a path to ever greater exploitation.

The difference between conservatism and liberalism today is that one offers a better afterlife for their deference, and the other offers a rarely achieved hope for better in this life. The difference between liberals and the left is that one idealizes individuals each responsible only to themselves, and the other emphasizes solidarity, arguing that our fates are shared, and therefore our responsibility is to each other. Liberals like to call Trumpists, and their antecedents back to the Dark Ages, populists, because they look down on common people as ignorant and prejudiced (or as one put it memorably, "deplorable"). Leftists hate that designation, because they feel kinship with all people, not just because that's how solidarity works, but because they see many of those people being critical of capitalism, even when they aren't very articulate about why.

Top story threads:


DeSantis, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • EJ Antoni: [08-31] Bidenomics robs from the poor, gives to donor class: This piece of hackwork showed up in my local paper, along with Ryan Young: [09-01] Don't let politicians take credit for economic recovery. Together they give you a sense of how flailing and incoherent right-wing attacks on Bidenomics have become: on the one hand, don't credit Biden for any recovery, because that's just good old capitalism at work (an article that none of them wrote when Trump or Reagan were president, but became a staple during the much stronger recoveries under Clinton and Obama); on the other blame everything bad on Biden, and imply that corruption is the root of everything Democrats do (talk about projection). Antoni is particularly ripe for his concern over "the radical disconnect between Washington's ruling elites and working-class folks." It may be true that much of the extra spending Biden accomplished -- the first recovery act, the barely-bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the big Inflation Recovery Act -- has passed through the hands of companies that donated to Democrats (and usually Republicans, who get even more of their money from rich donors), but most of that money has trickled down, creating jobs that wouldn't have existed otherwise, and raising wages in the process.

    Both parties do most of their public spending through companies, but Biden has done a much better job than previous Democrats at seeing that spending benefit workers -- and indeed in improving the leverage of workers throughout the labor market. Maybe you can criticize him for not doing enough, but he clearly would have done more if he had more Democrats in Congress (and better ones than Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema). As for "robbing the poor," the only evidence he has is inflation, which is simply the result of companies actively taking advantage of supply shortages and growing demand -- lots of reasons for both, and I suppose you could blame Biden for adding to the demand side, by giving jobs and raising wages. These are, after all, complex issues, with many factors, but to the extent you can isolate Biden's contribution, it clearly has helped large segments of the economy.

    [PS: Both links include author pics. I hate it when people make assumptions about character based on looks, but I must admit I was taken aback by this pair -- perhaps by how young they appear, and how smiley when their messages are so disingenuous.]

  • Jessica Corbett: [08-30] Biden admin proposes 'much-needed' overtime protections for 3.6 million workers.

  • Lee Harris: [08-07] Biden Admin to restore labor rule gutted in 1980s.

  • Ben Jacobs: [09-01] Sidelined and self-sabotaged: What The Last Politician says about Kamala Harris. Franklin Foer's book, subtitled Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future, is coming out this week (Sept. 5). I've never been much of a Harris fan, but I've also thought they should be using her more, and trying to build her up, to make the 2024 campaign more of a team effort, reassuring voters of continuity, should Biden's age get the better of him. Republicans are going after her anyway, so why not lean into it and feature her more?. For a bit more on the book, see this Playbook column. There is also an excerpt on Afghanistan in The Atlantic.

  • Harold Meyerson: [08-07] Buybacks are down, production is up: "Bidenomics has begun to de-financialize the economy."

  • Toluse Olorunnipa: [09-02] Biden surveys Hurricane Idalia's damage in Florida, without DeSantis: There is a photo of DeSantis (looking annoyed) with Biden after Hurricane Ian a couple years ago. Such photo ops are normal, but Republicans often take flak for mingling with the enemy, much as Trump did for posing with Kim Jong Un. I wonder how much of this is because the White House Press has nothing useful to do, but maybe if they were given fewer useless ops they might think of something?

    [PS: I see a tweet with a New York Times: "Biden Won't Meet DeSantis in Florida During Tour of Hurricane Damage"; but wasn't it DeSantis refusing to meet Biden, not the other way? On the other hand, Rick Scott wasn't afraid of having his picture taken with Biden. DeSantis is such a wuss!]

  • Dylan Scott: [08-30] Medicare's first-ever drug price negotiations, briefly explained: Seems like a very modest first step, but looking at the list prices, you can see how "serious money" adds up. (For you youngsters, back in the 1970s, Sen. Everett Dirksen quipped: "a billion here, a billion there, before long you're talking serious money"). After this ten, another batch of fifteen are to follow. There is much more that should be done. Such high prices are purely the result of government-granted patent monopolies. The law could change the terms of patent use from monopolies to some form of arbitration. Or (my preference) we could end patents all together. And yes, I filed this under Biden/Democrats because there is zero change of getting even this much relief when Republicans are in power. Also see:

Legal matters: Ok, sometimes I mean illegal matters. Obviously, Trump's crimes are filed elsewhere.

Climate and Environment: Hard to find anything about it in the US press, but they're having a rip-roaring typhoon season in East Asia this year; e.g.: Typhoon Saola makes landfall in China's coast after slamming Hong Kong; and As Typhoon Haikui barrels into Taiwan, thousands are evacuated. These are big storms hitting heavily populated areas. Back in early August, there was this: [08-02] Heaviest rainfall in 140 years drenches Beijing while Typhoon Khanun hits Japan's Okinawa. You may recall that in 2022 they held the Winter Olympics in Beijing, so it's not exactly a place you expect to be ravaged by tropical storms.

Ukraine War: The New York Times insists Ukraine's offensive makes progress. Elsewhere, we are warned: Ukraine tells counteroffensive critics to 'shut up'. Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Blumenthal says US is getting its 'money's worth' in Ukraine because Americans aren't dying, which suggests ulterior motives and double standards. More stories follow, but plus ça change, etc. Even if the counteroffensive breaks the Russian line, doing things in the next month or two (before winter) they haven't even hinted at in the last three months, Ukraine will remain far short of their goal of expelling Russia from their pre-2014 borders, and will have no real leverage to force Russia to capitulate to their terms. And even if they could expel Russia, they'd still be locked in a state of war until a truce was negotiated. The only way out is to find a combination of tradeoffs that is agreeable both to Russia and to Ukraine, and (not that they have any business dictating terms to Ukraine) to Biden, who is engaged in his own shadow war with Putin, and has possibly decisive chips to play (sanctions, trade, security assurances).

  • Blaise Malley:

    • [09-01] Diplomacy Watch: The search for an endgame in Ukraine.

    • [08-29] Can sanctions help win peace? According to this report, not likely: "Not only does economic warfare not work because it ends up hurting the people it claims to help, but it can stand in the way of diplomacy." I don't think that is quite right. Sanctions can, and should, be considered a chit for negotiation, but that only works if one is willing to relinquish them as part of an agreement. The problem is when sanctions are seen as permanent, foreclosing negotiation. For instance, sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq demanded regime change, not something Hussein could reasonably negotiate. Under such conditions, sanctions are acts of kabuki warfare, symbolic yet reflecting hostility and a desire to harm -- a meaning that targets cannot fail to detect, but which, due to the arbitrariness and overreaching hubris of American foreign policy, especially the belief that enemies can only respond to a show of force, makes it nearly impossible to defuse. US sanctions against Russia started way before Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and have only escalated with each offense, paving the way to the present war, and possibly to much worse.

      The report is from International Crisis Group: [08-28] Sanctions, Peacemaking and Reform: Recommendations for US Policymakers. One key quote there is: "Sanctions can only help bring parties to the table for peace talks, and provide leverage when they get there, if negotiators can credibly promise meaningful and enduring sanctions relief." Moreover:

      The U.S. does not always make clear what parties can do that will lead to sanctions relief. In some cases, Washington has not laid out any such steps or it has outlined steps that are unrealistic. In others, the U.S. was never willing to lift sanctions in the first place. Elsewhere, Washington's communication on sanctions has been vague, leaving targets in the dark about what might lead to reversal. Targets can be unsure why they were sanctioned, as members of Venezuela's electoral authority reported in 2020, or have learned about the designations second- or thirdhand (a former Congolese official found out about his listing from the newspaper and some FARC members learned from listening to the radio). Some never see the full evidence underpinning the designations -- even if they lobby the Treasury Department. Without clarity on why they were sanctioned and what they can do to be delisted, targets have little incentive to make concessions in exchange for relief.

      A big part of the problem is that the neocon view that talking is a sign of weakness, and liberal-interventionist conviction that America's unique moral legitimacy makes it a fair and necessary judge of everyone else, has driven diplomacy from Washington, leaving American foreign policy as little more than "irritable mental gestures."

  • David Bromwich: [08-29] Living on a war planet (and managing not to notice): Raises the question (at least to me): if the war in Ukraine hadn't come along, would America have invented it? ,Leaving aside the second question (did it?), the withdrawal from Afghanistan left some kind of void in the minds of that class of people whose sole concern is America's military position in the world? Wars give them meaning in life, and after twenty years of frustration in Afghanistan and Iraq, Ukraine is some kind of dream: industry is stoked delivering arms and explosives, while it's someone else doing the fighting and bleeding, someone else having their lives upended. The plotters in America haven't had so much fun since Afghanistan in the 1980s -- another time when every dead Russian was counted as a blow for freedom. But mostly it just helped perpetuate the conflict, with no domestic political cost. So of course they refuse to negotiate. Why spoil such a good thing?

    After citing Roger Cohen's recent propaganda piece (Putin's Forever War), he notes that "Mikhail Gorbachev finally emerges as the hero of this story," then adds:

    Nowhere quoted, however, is the Gorbachev who, between 2004 and 2018, contributed eight op-eds to the New York Times, the sixth of which focused on climate change and the eighth on the perilous renewal of a nuclear arms race. Gorbachev was deeply troubled by George W. Bush's decision to withdraw from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty (which Putin called a "mistake") and Donald Trump's similar decision to pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Does anyone doubt that Gorbachev would have been equally disturbed by the Biden administration's virtual severance of diplomatic relations with Russia?

  • Daniel Brumberg: [08-30] The Russia-Ukraine Jeddah meeting reflects a changing global order.

  • Stephen F Eisenman: [09-01] Some people will hate me for writing this: End the war! Sounds like some people already do. Every war starts with efforts to suppress doubters and dissenters in one's own ranks, which no one doubts happened in Russia this time, but has been relentless here as well (albeit stopping short of arrests, unlike the World Wars and, in some cases, Vietnam). Lately we've been warned that casting doubt on the counteroffensive's prospects is catering to Russia, and that even suggesting talks should begin before Ukraine is ready implies we're eager to sell them out. My counter is that the war will never end until negotiators on all sides decide to end it, and that you'll never know whether that is even possible until you've set up a forum for negotiation.

  • Ellen Francis: [09-02] Nobel Prize foundation scraps plan to invite Russia, Belarus after criticism: Ukraine may be having trouble with their counteroffensive, but they're winning regularly at shaming international bodies into petty slighting of Russia.

  • Keith Gessen: [08-29] The case for negotiating with Russia: Draws on RAND analyst Samuel Charap, co-author of the 2016 book, Everyone Loses: The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Russia. Since then, everyone has continued to lose, the pace accelerating with the February, 2023 invasion. I'd argue that all wars are, as he puts it, "negative-sum games," but the case here is especially easy.

    But among "defense intellectuals," that's a minority view -- in my formulation, it would probably disqualify you permanently from employment. Gessen quotes Eliot A. Cohen as saying:

    Ukraine must not only achieve battlefield success in its upcoming counteroffensives; it must secure more than orderly Russian withdrawals following cease-fire negotiations. To be brutal about it, we need to see masses of Russians fleeing, deserting, shooting their officers, taken captive, or dead. The Russian defeat must be an unmistakably big, bloody shambles.

    The implicit assumption is that it's possible to inflict such a defeat on Russia without further escalation or recourse: that Putin (or some other Russian who might ascend to power) will take such a catastrophic defeat gracefully, as opposed to, say, blowing the world up. Note that if Putin is really as irreconcilable as people like Cohen make him out to be, that's exactly what he would do in that circumstance.

  • Joe Lauria: [08-29] US victim of own propaganda in Ukraine War.

  • Anatol Lieven:

    • [08-30] Few Russians wanted the war in Ukraine -- but they won't accept a Russian defeat either. As bad as Putin has been -- for America, for Europe, even (especially?) for Russia -- replacing him could get a lot worse. The kind of embarrassing, punishing defeat that Cohen (above) demands has been tried before, especially at Versailles after WWI, and tends to backfire spectacularly.

    • [08-31] Sarkozy vilified for speaking uncomfortable truths about Ukraine: The quorted sections from Sarkozy's book seem pretty reasonable to me. I've said all along that we should allow for internationally-supervised referenda in the disputed territories. If Crimea, say, wants to be part of Russia, it should be. Granted, it's harder to do now than it was before the invasion, but it should be possible. I think that a similar procedure should also be used to resolve disputes in Georgia, Serbia, and elsewhere. If Scotland wishes to avail itself of a referendum, we should allow it. It's easy enough to propose solutions on other issues as well. But at some point Russia has to see NATO as a purely defensive pact -- which NATO could help make more plausible with less war-gaming, something that should be but doesn't have to be reciprocal -- and the EU as simply an economic club, which Russia could conceivably join. On the other hand, the US and allies need to see a path to dropping the sanctions against Russia, and reintegrating Russia into the world economy. Granted, there are problems with the way Russia runs itself, but that's really their own business. One thing that would help would be an international treaty providing a right to exile, so real or potential political prisoners in any country could appeal to go to some other country. It's hard to get a country like Russia to agree to peaceful coexistence, but a necessary first step would be to tone down the criticism, the meddling, the menace, and the isolation. In the long run, none of us can afford this level of hostility.

  • Alice Speri: [] Prigozhin's legacy is the global rise of private armies for hire.


  • Al Jazeera: [09-03] Israel's Netanyahu calls for deportation of Etitrean refugee 'rioters'.

  • Jonathan Coulter: [09-03] A seditious project: "Asa Winstanley's book shows how the Israel lobby facilitated the influence of a foreign government's interests in dictating who gets to lead the Labour Party, causing the downfall of Jeremy Corbyn." The book is Weaponizing Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn. Of course, the Lobby is also active trying to purge any whiff of criticism from the Democratic Party, but Corbyn was their biggest victim, all the more critical as the Labour Party replaced him with the second coming of Tony Blair ("Bush's poodle").

  • Nada Elia: [08-30] Golda: A failed attempt to boost Israel's propaganda: There is a new movie about the Israeli Prime Minister (1969-74), with Helen Mirren in the title role. Looking at the film's plot on Wikipedia, I see that it focuses on the 1973 war, when initial setbacks led Meir to prepare to use nuclear weapons, and the immediate aftermath, which led to recriminations over allowing those setbacks. But it also notes: "Anwar Sadat, who like Golda Meir publicly speaks English, agrees to establish diplomatic relations to Israel in exchange for the return of the Sinai Peninsula." Sadat offered that shortly after the war, but Meir didn't agree to any such deal. That was Menachim Begin in 1979, under heavy pressure from Jimmy Carter. By the way, one of the few stories I like about Meir is how she casually referred to Begin, when he joined the war cabinet in 1967, as "the fascist." (Begin doesn't appear in the film's cast, although there are a bunch of generals, and Liev Schreiber playing Henry Kissinger.)

    Although the 1973 war occurred at the pinnacle of Meir's political career, I doubt her leadership was any more decisive than Levi Eshkol's was in 1967. In both wars, the key character was Moshe Dayan, and the difference was that he was the aggressor in 1967, but in 1973 he had to play defense, which wasn't as much fun, especially as it punctured the air of invincibility he had built up through 1967. The key lesson of 1973 is that if you refuse to negotiate with your enemies, as Meir had done, they may eventually decide that their only option is war, and at that point all sorts of bad things can happen. But to make sense out of 1973, you need a lot more context than they're likely to provide, especially given the usual propaganda mission.

    I imagine that a more interesting film could be made about Meir when she was younger, about how she became the only woman in the Histadrut and Mapai inner circles, where she probably overcome the default sexism by becoming the toughest character in the room -- not unlike Mirren's character in Prime Suspect. That would have been a tougher movie to sell, especially without Mirren, and it would be hard to present those times accurately, and easy to wallow in post-facto mythmaking.

    Having gone on at this length about Meir, I should close with a quote of hers, which in my mind is possibly the most obnoxiously self-flattering thing any political figure ever said:

    When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons. Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.

    But peace hasn't happened, and this attitude goes a long way to explaining why. More on Golda:

    • Sonja Anderson: [] The real history behind the 'Golda' movie: A fairly detailed biographic sketch of Meir's life, but very little to explain the conflict leading to the 1973 war.

    • David Klion: [09-01] The strange feminism of Golda. Regarding director Nattiv's motives: "The answer seems to be that he is more interested in rescuing the dignity of Israel's founding generation in the context of its current political crisis." Still, that generation was at the root and heart of Israel's later militarism and apartheid. To hold them up as models barely rebukes Netanyahu and Ben Gvir for bad manners.

  • Joseph Massad: [08-31] Ben Gvir's racist comments are no different from those if Israel's founders. Quotes from Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weizmann, Vladimir Jabotinsky, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, even the usually circumspect Abba Eban.

  • Peter Shambrook: [08-25] Policy of Deceit: Britain and Palestine, 1914-1939: An extract from a new book of that title. One of the first books I read on the subject was Tom Segev: One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, which I recommend, although there is certainly more detail that can be added.

  • Richard Silverstein: [08-29] Why the US must not add Israel to its visa waiver programme.

Around the world:

Other stories:

Rachel DuRose: [08-30] The US has new Covid-19 variants on the rise. Meet Eris and Fornax.

Bill Friskics-Warren: [09-02] Jimmy Buffett, roguish bard of island escapism, is dead at 76: I wasn't going to mention this here, but No More Mister Nice Blog picked out a selection of rabid hate comments from Breitbart on how awful his politics were (see Jimmy Buffett, Stalinist Nazi). Warms my heart more than his music ever did (and let's face it, I'd never turn down a "Cheeseburger in Paradise," although I must admit I've never gone to one of his restaurants for one). Few things drive right-wingers crazier than finding out a rich guy identifies with Democrats. By the way, this blog is almost always worth reading, but his piece Public Options is especially striking, as one that gets personal -- unusual for an author whose last name is M.

Sean Illing: [08-30] Is the populist right's future . . . democratic socialism? Interview with Sohrab Ahmari, explaining "why precarity is breaking our politics." You see some of this happening in multiparty systems in Europe, where it's possible to combine safety net support with conservative social concerns, resulting in a party that could ally with either right or left, but at least this two-party system has little choice to offer: you can get a better break on economics with the Democrats, but you have to accept living in a diverse and predominantly urban country; on the other hand, if you insist on the old "family values," you can get some lip-service from Republicans, but in the end their embrace of oligarchy will hurt you. I think such people should be more approachable by Democrats, but I'm even more certain that as long as they back Republicans, they will be screwed.

Eric Levitz: [08-31] Was American slavery uniquely evil? Not sure why this came up, other than that some right-wingers are irate about the tendency to view all (or at least many) things American as evil. As Levitz points out, all slave systems shared many of the same evils. One could argue that America was more exploitative because American slaveholders were more deeply enmeshed in capitalism, but it's hard to say that the French in Haiti and the British elsewhere in the Caribbean were less greedy. You can argue that America was more benign, because after the import of slaves ended, the numbers increased substantially, while elsewhere, like in Brazil, imports barely kept up with deaths. Plus there were many more slave revolts in Brazil and the Caribbean than in the US -- but still enough in the US to keep the masters nervous. As for reparations, which comes up tangentially here, I don't see how you can fix the past. But it would be possible to end poverty in the near future, and to make sure everyone has the rights they need going forward. History neither precludes nor promises that. It just gives you lots of examples of what not to do again.

By the way, Levitz cites a piece he wrote in 2021 about Israel and Palestinian rights: Why is this geopolitical fight different from all other fights? He offers three reasons, and admits one more ("Israel's role in the Christian right's eschatology is also surely a factor"). He omits one or two that have become even more salient since then: Israel is an intensely militarist nation, which makes it a role model for Americans (and some Europeans) who want an even larger and more aggressive military front. Israel is also the most racially and religiously stratified nation, with discriminatory laws, intense domestic surveillance, and strong public support for establishment religion, and some Americans would like to see some or all of that here, as well. I only quibble on the count because the prejudices seem to go hand-in-hand. On the other hand, many of the moderate and left people who have begun to doubt the blind support given Israel by nearly all politicians started with alarm at what Israel's biggest right-wing boosters want to also do to America.

Amanda Moore: [08-22] Undercover with the new alt-right: "For 11 months, I pretended to be a far-right extremist. I discovered a radical youth movement trying to infiltrate the Republican Party." But they're pretty obvious about that.

Jason Resnikoff: [08-31] How Bill Clinton became a neoliberal: Review of a book by Nelson Lichtenstein and the late Judith Stein (who started work on the book that Lichtenstein picked up): A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism. First I have to question whether the notion that Clinton wasn't any kind of neoliberal before he became president. The premise of the New Democrat movement was the promise to be better for business than the Republicans were, and Clinton's long tenure as governor of Arkansas, as WalMart and Tyson grew from regional to national businesses, suggests that he was good at it. Clinton certainly wasted no time throwing labor under the bus to pass NAFTA.

Sam Roberts: [09-02] Bill Richardson, champion of Americans held overseas, dies at 75: Former governor of New Mexico, served 14 years in Congress, was Secretary of Energy, held various diplomatic posts, including US Ambassador to the United Nations, ran for president in 2008, and engaged in more freelance diplomacy than anyone but Jimmy Carter. Curiously, there is only one line here about North Korea ("he went to North Korea to recover the remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War," as if he had nothing more to talk to them about).

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [08-31] "Conservatism" conserves nothing: "Whatever 'conservatism' is, it does not involve the conservation of a stable climate, or the polar ice caps, or the coral reefs, or the global food supply." The rejoinder is that the nation and the world are too far gone to be satisfied with just preserving the status quo, which is why others are more likely to call them reactionaries: they see change they don't like, and react fitfully, contemptuously, often violently. But not all change bothers them: what they hate above all is any challenge to the privileges of wealth, or any limit to their ability to accumulate more. Given that one of the easiest ways to get rich is to suck wealth from the earth, conservation is not only not in their portfolio, it's something they dread -- etymology be damned.

  • [08-29] As cruel as it's possible to be: This week's example is Fox host Jesse Waters, who wants to make homeless people feel more ashamed for their misfortune, and argues that "the deaths of homeless people are a form of cosmic justice."

Kenny Torrella: [08-31] The myths we tell ourselves about American farming. One I should write more about, one of these days.

Bryan Walsh: [09-01] What America can learn from baseball (yes, baseball): "Baseball fixed itself by changing its rules. The country should pay attention." I used to know a lot about baseball. I could recall back to the 1957 all-star game lineups. (You know, the one where the Reds stuffed the ballot box so Gus Bell and Wally Post got more votes than Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.) And I looked up the rest. I was part of a club a friend started called Baseball Maniacs, out of which Don Malcolm started publishing his Big Bad Baseball annuals. (Malcolm was my co-founder on Terminal Zone, and he published my Hall of Fame study, I think in the 1998 Annual.) Then with the 1994 lockout, I lost all interest, and never returned, although I'm slightly more aware this year than I have been since 1994.

The difference is getting the "electronic edition" of the local paper, which is padded out with a ridiculously large sports section. While I speed click through everything else, that got me to following basketball more closely, so I wondered if I might pick up a bit of baseball while waiting for the season to change. A little bit is about right: I land on the standings page, so I know who's leading and who's beat, and sometimes look at the stats, but that's about all. I do know a bit about the rules changes, because I've read a couple pieces on them.

Walsh's point is that when people get too good at cornering the rules, it helps to change them up a bit. In baseball, that mostly means shorter games (not that they've gotten much shorter: Walsh says they've been dialed back to the 1980s, but I remember games that barely exceeded two hours). Walsh has plenty of other examples of "operating under a rule book that is out of date," many involving the gridlock in Congress. But baseball at least has incentive to change (although it took an insanely long time for the NL to accept the DH, even though watching pitchers try to hit was embarrassing even back in the 1950s).

Li Zhou: [08-31] Marijuana could be classified as a lower-risk drug. Here's what that means. Well, for starters it would reduce the quantity of complete nonsense the government swears on, which might make them more credible about drugs that pose real dangers beyond mere bad habits.

There's a meme titled "When the actual dictionary completely nails it." The text offers a dictionary definition:

trumpery, n.; pl. trumperies, [Fr. tromperie, from tromper, to deceive, cheat.]

  1. deceit, fraud. [Obs.]
  2. anything calculated to deceive by false show; anything externally splendid but intrinsically of little value; worthless finery.
  3. things worn out and of no value; useless matter; trifles; rubbish; nonsense.
    This idolatrous trumpery and superstition.

Trump's German family name used to be Drumpf. After a brief search, I'm unclear as to exactly when, where, and why the name change occurred, but it does seem like a deliberate choice, if not necessarily a fully knowing one.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Music Week

August archive (final).

Music: Current count 40767 [40728] rated (+39), 27 [19] unrated (+8).

Another big Speaking of Which yesterday. Too bad I've never been able to find a shrink who can explain why I've sat on my political book idea for two (or twenty) years with nothing to show for it, then knock out a pretty coherent outline in less than five hours. In my experience, shrinks can help you out of extreme panic attacks, but beyond that are useless. Beyond that, you need friends.

One thing I should have mentioned is the Student Debt Release Tool, from the Debt Collective. If you have outstanding loans, check it out.

Went to doctors last week, and lab results are grim. No idea how I'm going to deal with this. (Well, maybe half an idea.)

Also grim is my CD player. I replaced the belts, and put it back together again, and now I'm getting the same "error" flashed on the front panel, as it's locked up and refuses to eject the tray. Best guess is the sensor isn't detecting the presence or absence of discs. Plan is to take it apart again and see if the tray is misaligned or the skimpy cable isn't set right. Beyond that, it probably goes into the trash. A few years back, I wanted to set up an electronics bench so I could repair equipment like this. Now that seems beyond my grasp.

Short list of new records reviewed this week. I have more in the promo queue now than I've had at any point this year, but almost all of them are September/October releases -- including the James Brandon Lewis and Todd Sickafoose albums I jumped the gun on. I made up for that shortfall by following a couple of checklists. The first was one I had compiled some time ago based on Will Friedwald: The Great Jazz and Pop Vocals Albums. Phil Overeem mentioned this list in relation to a course he's teaching, and discussion turned to a Barb Jungr record I hadn't found at the time. I found it this time, and wound up playing most of her oeuvre.

I didn't find anything in Soto's list that added to the 17 albums already on my A-list, although they did lead me to a second Electronic album that I liked a bit better -- the listed album came in at B+(***). Still, it was an interesting exercise.

The second checklist was one I compiled based on Afred Soto's post: My 50 favorite albums. Turned out there were quite a few albums on his list that I hadn't heard (or at least rated), so I wound up spending most of the week filling in the blanks. Thus far, only one record has eluded me: DJ Sprinkles: Midtown 120 Blues. (I did find some Spotify playlists, but they were defunct, with links broken.)

I also jotted down the years of the records. I've long suspected that most of the records one feels strongest attachment to are ones that came out in one's teens and twenties. That's true of me, and I suspect that explains most of our divergence. Soto's records fall into these age bands: 1970-79 (6), 1980-84 (7), 1985-89 (8), 1990-94 (11), 1995-1999 (2), 2000-04 (4), 2005-09 (6), 2010-present (4). I don't have a comparable list, but in my unsorted 1000 Records list, more than half of my rock/r&b records came from the 1960s and 1970s (255/407, or 62.6%; if you throw in rap and techno, and count all of them as post-1979, it becomes 255/459, or 55.5%).

I had the idea of throwing together a comparison list, taking as rules: one album for each year there were albums on Soto's list (so the same age spread); no more than three compilations (Soto had Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music, Wire, Dolly Parton), counted by source end date; no more than one jazz album (Soto had Miles Davis). I'm not sure that other genre matches would help much: Soto has 2 Brazil, 0 other world/latin, 3 rap, 3 country, 8 r&b, 2 (or maybe more) electronica, the rest pop/rock (of which Sugar is most metal). My biggest shift would be less r&b, which I thought went into decline after 1980 and became increasingly muddled, not that I wasn't able to find exceptions.

I also want to cite Brad Luen's 2003 poll results. He has been doing annual polls in the Expert Witness Facebook group, decided to do 2003, and rounded up 39 ballots (which don't seem to be available). I didn't vote, but I do have a 2003 list published (untouched since Jan. 1, 2005). Back in the day, I also compiled a 2003 poll (10 voters, 7 for Buck 65's Talkin' Honky Blues, which came in 7th in Luen's poll). I doubt I need to checklist the results, as I've heard nearly all of them, but the exceptions start at 24 with DonaZica's Composição, which got a boost recently with a Rod Taylor guest post on Luen's Substack: Sixteen 21st century Brazilian albums. Taylor's list deserves a checklist, but my grasp of Brazilian music is so lame I doubt it will do me much good. (Looking down at the poll results, there are more, like Yin Yang Twins at 27, Linkin Park at 37, King Geedorah at 40, Kathleen Edwards at 41, Constantines at 42, Brooks & Dunn at 50, etc. [PS: In scanning the list, I missed The New Pornographers: Electric Version at 18. I just assumed I had heard it, like the rest of the group's instantly forgettable albums.]

I don't often link to music, but Dan Ex Machina posted a single to mark Trump's latest arrest.

August Streamnotes done but not indexed yet. Monthly rated list dropped way down to 131.

New records reviewed this week:

Barb Jungr and Her Trio: My Marquee (2023, Marquee): British singer, writes some songs but mostly interprets other singer-songwriters, especially Bob Dylan. Twenty-seven albums since 1985. Backed by piano-bass-drums trio, she does six songs plus two medleys, taking vintage rock pieces and treating them as proto-standards. Most successful is a medley interleaving three Yardbirds hits ("Heart Full of Soul/Shapes of Things/For Your Love"). B+(**) [sp]

James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: For Mahalia, With Love [Expanded Edition] (2023, Tao Forms, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, formed this group for his poll-winning 2021 album Jesup Wagon, reconvenes with Kirk Knuffke (trumpet), Chris Hoffman (cello), William Parker (bass), and Chad Taylor (drums), to play his arrangements of a set of trad. gospel pieces tied to Mahalia Jackson, but with no vocals, as nothing else can be as sanctified as his instrument. The digital album ends there (9 tracks, 71:32), and as long as it stays on track, it's as inspired as any gospel program since David Murray's Spirituals. The 2-CD package adds a second album, These Are Soulful Days, a suite (8 tracks, 47:24) that starts out as an interesting strings piece, played by Lutoslawski Quartet, with Lewis joining in and eventually dominating -- about as good as sax-with-strings gets. [There's also a 2-LP package of the album proper, with a download code for the bonus.] A- [cd] [09-08]

Evan Parker/Matthew Wright Trance Map+ Peter Evans/Mark Nauseef: Etching the Ether (2022 [2023], Intakt): Soprano sax and electronics duo, their names above the group name, as with their previous Crepuscle in Nickelsdorff, with extra guests below the group name (new ones this time: trumpet and percussion. (There's also a duo album on FRM, but I haven't heard it.) B+(**) [sp]

Rachael & Vilray: I Love a Love Song (2022 [2023], Nonesuch): Vocal duo, Rachael Price and Vilray Bolles, who also plays guitar and claims most of the writing credits, but doesn't publicize his surname. Front cover lists much of the band. B+(*) [sp]

Sebastian Rochford/Kit Downes: A Short Diary (2022 [2023], ECM): Drums and piano duo, the former -- drummer in Sons of Kemet and various other groups -- also the composer. Very quiet, the drummer almost inaudible. B [sp]

Todd Sickafoose: Bear Proof (2023, Secret Hatch): Bassist, looks like only his third album (since 2000) solely under his own name -- Discogs mostly lists live Ani DiFranco albums from 2004-09, when she was jazzing up her sound (Mike Dillon and, later, Allison Miller were also credited). Eight musicians, including Jenny Scheinman (violin), Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Kirk Knuffke (cornet), and Miller (drums). B+(**) [cd] [09-29]

Kate Soper Feat. Sam Pluta: The Understanding of All Things (2022, New Focus): Composer, mostly filed under classical, plays piano, singer for Wet Ink Ensemble, was a Pulitzer finalist for her chamber opera Ipsa Dixit. Pluta works in electronics, which Soper speaks and sings over, sometimes alarmingly. B- [sp]

Aki Takase: Carmen Rhapsody (2023, BMC): Bizet opera done up by jazz trio with piano (Takase), cello (Vincent Courtois), and sax (Daniel Erdmann), with mezzo soprano Mayumi Nakamura popping in and out. Needless to say, I could do without the latter, but after the initial bad taste, I found it fitting in with the flow. B+(**) [sp]

Aki Takase/Alexander von Schlippenbach: Four Hands Piano Pieces (2021 [2023], Trost): Piano duo, married but both have huge solo careers, as well as several joint duo or larger group albums. But this one feels awkward at first, banging chords, but it does get a bit more interesting toward the end. B [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Julee Cruise: Floating Into the Night (1989 [2023], Sacred Bones): Singer (1956-2022), originally from Iowa, moved to New York, started working with David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti as a vocal coach for Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet. First album, with Lynch writing lyrics and Badalmenti doing the music and orchestration, tied into Lynch's Twin Peaks. Billed as dream pop, but not without a few kinks. B [sp]

Sonic Youth: Live in Brooklyn 2011 (2011 [2023], Silver Current): Seminal New York guitar band, started with an EP in 1982, ended in late 2011 with the separation of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore after 27 years of marriage. Last concert was in São Paulo in November 14, following this August 11 performance outdoors, in Williamsburg facing the East River. In recent years they've released a couple dozen live tapes, but I've had little interested in sifting through them. But they've singled this one out, remastered it, and offer it as 2-LP or 2-CD (82:40). More noise than I'd like, especially on the encore, but in controlled doses it made them stand out. B+(***) [sp]

Old music:

808 State: Ex:el (1991, ZTT/Tommy Boy): English electronica group, from Manchester, first album 1988, this their fourth (of seven through 2002) and most popular (4 in UK). B+(**) [sp]

Aaliyah: Age Ain't Nothing but a Number (1994, Blackground): Last name Haughton, released three gold records, this first one when she was 15 -- also the age, in what seems even more bizarre today, she married R. Kelly, although that story is messier than I care to get into -- before dying at 22 in a plane crash. Kelly produced, his "new jack swing" a mix of funk and hip-hop, tempered by the young singer. It sold three million copies in the US, three more million elsewhere. B+(*) [sp]

Aaliyah: One in a Million (1996, Blackground): Second album, age 17, another big seller, runs 17 songs, 73:10, seems to be coming her own but this is very much a producers' showcase, with most of the songs written by Missy Elliott and Timbaland. It does capture the sound of the times, which as someone who grew up decades earlier has always struck me as a bit muddled, but she comes through clearer than most. B+(**) [sp]

Aaliyah: Aaliyah (2001, Blackground): One more big hit record, most of the lyrics this time by Stephen Garrett, the music by various committees, and four producers, not that I can discern much variation, just relentless craft. B+(**) [sp]

Change: The Glow of Love (1980, RFC/Warner Bros.): Post-disco group, inspired by Chic, formed in Bologna, Italy, with David Romani, Paolo Gianollo, and Mauro Malavasi doing most of the songwriting and producing, Jacques Fred Petrus running the business, and lots of movable parts, including Luther Vandross and Jocelyn Brown singing two songs each. B+(**) [sp]

Duran Duran: Rio (1982, Capitol): English new wave band, MTV stars of the early 1980s as their first three albums (1981-83) went multi-platinum. After that they coasted, but never more than four years between albums (until 2021's Future Past took six; a new one is scheduled for October 2023). Title song was as catchy as they ever got. Nothing else here comes close, and in the end I wonder whether there was anything to them in the first place. B- [r]

Electronic: Electronic (1991, Factory): Duo of Bernard Sumner (Joy Division/New Order) and Johnny Marr (Smiths), Sumner the vocal lead, both play guitars and keyboards, Marr also bass. First of three albums (1991-99), sounds much like New Order, nothing to sniff at, but lacks the same magic -- even when the Pet Shop Boys join on two tracks. B+(***) [sp]

Electronic: Raise the Pressure (1996, Parlophone): Second album, Sumner and Marr are joined here by Karl Bartos, from Kraftwerk, who co-wrote six songs. Soundwise, it doesn't make a lot of difference, other than some extra squiggles in the background, and more background vocals. In other words, less overtly New Order, still built on the same strengths, but a bit more nuanced and nicer. A- [sp]

Everything but the Girl: Walking Wounded (1996, Atlantic): English duo, singer Tracey Thorn and multi-instrumentalist Ben Watt, ten albums 1984-99 plus a new one in 2023, each with solo albums before 1984 and after 2000, and also memoirs. This is their ninth album, possibly their bestseller. Nice, steady beat, would take more study, especially for a group I've heard next to nothing by. B+(***) [sp]

Amy Grant: Heart in Motion (1991, A&M): Singer-songwriter, started on the gospel label Myrrh in 1977, sixth album (1985) got picked up for distribution by A&M and went platinum, with this more pop-oriented album ("mingled with Christian values") an even bigger hit. I've had zero interest in CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) since it emerged as a marketing niche, but my rare encounters suggested it was basically arena rock with sanctified (or at least sanitized) lyrics, so as mind-numbing as metal without even the pretense of subversion. This has some of that ("You're Not Alone" is so over the top it's almost good), then winds down with some more gracious ballads (best is "Hope Set High," despite Jesus). B [sp]

The Human League: Dare (1981, A&M): English new wave (synthpop) band, third album after their 1979 debut, a breakthrough hit in the US as well as UK. Formally this has some interest, but I still find it hard to like. B- [sp]

Ice Cube: AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990, Priority): West coast gangsta godfather, O'Shea Jackson, first solo album while still a member of N.W.A. -- group disbanded after their second album in 1991, but he returned for their 1999-2002 reunion, and a couple times since then. Big album at the time, hard beats, sharp jolts. I'm certainly not hanging on every word. B+(**) [sp]

Barb Jungr: Every Grain of Sand: Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan (2002, Linn): English singer, father Czech, mother German, writes some but has many songbook albums, including more on Dylan. Tempting up to the home stretch, where the song selection hits a couple pet peeves. B+(***) [sp]

Barb Jungr: Waterloo Sunset (2003, Linn): Three originals, nine covers, mostly rock singer-songwriters from the Everly Brothers ("Cathy's Clown") to Richard Thompson, including two Dylans and the remarkable title song from Ray Davies. B+(**) [sp]

Barb Jungr: Love Me Tender (2004 [2005], Linn): Moving on to Elvis Presley, including two more Dylan songs that Presley covered, and one new song by Jungr and producer Aidan York. Everything is done at such a crawl you may already be dead for "Peace in the Valley." B+(*) [sp]

Barb Jungr: Just Like a Woman (Hymn to Nina) (2008, Linn): "All songs previously recorded by Nina Simone," but none written by her, and Jungr doesn't have the voice, the phrasing, or the piano to make the connection. She does, however, find three more Dylan songs. B+(*) [sp]

Barb Jungr: Man in the Long Black Coat: Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan (2003-11 [2011], Linn): Another Dylan tribute, this one rolling up the covers on her albums since 2002's Every Grain of Sand -- no duplicates, while adding four new ones (or outtakes?). Almost a best-of, except when it isn't. B+(***) [sp]

Barb Jungr: Hard Rain: The Songs of Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen (2014, Kristalyn): Six more Dylan songs, along with five from Cohen (two co-credits with Sharon Robinson). The latter tend to be played down, but she throws some back into the former, especially "It's Alright Ma." B+(**) [sp]

Barb Jungr: Shelter From the Storm: Songs of Hope for Troubled Times (2016, Linn): Philipp Ther, in How the West Lost the Peace, repeatedly refers to 2016 as annus horribilis, the combined effect of Brexit and Trump, so Jungr has some company in recognizing "troubled times." She co-wrote three songs with pianist Laurence Hobgood ("featuring" on the cover), but went to Dylan for a title (also for "All Along the Watchtower"), Cohen for "Sisters of Mercy," Joni Mitchell for "Woodstock," and wound up with Peter Gabriel and David Bowie ("Life on Mars?/Space Oddity" -- nice idea for another album). B+(*) [sp]

Barb Jungr/John McDaniel: Come Together: Barb Jungr & John McDaniel Perform the Beatles (2016, Kristalyn): McDaniel is an American pianist, sings some, is best known as music director for The Rosie O'Donnell Show, which netted him a couple Grammys. Beatles songs have an almost singularly shabby track record as jazz vehicles, but jazz isn't really the point here. The mostly late-period songs are cannily selected for diva performance, ranging from "Eleanor Rigby" to the medley of "Somewhere" and "The Long and Winding Road," closing with "In My Life." B+(**) [sp]

Barb Jungr: Bob, Brel, and Me (2019, Kristalyn): Bob is Dylan, of course, good for five more songs here, along with five by Jacques Brel (translated into English by Robb Johnson), and five originals. Even the Dylan songs are running low. B [sp]

The London Suede: Dog Man Star (1994, Nude/Columbia): Britpop group, Suede in the UK, the qualification used only in the US. Debut 1993, second album here, released five albums through 2002, took a decade off and returned with four more 2013-22. B [sp]

Kylie Minogue: Fever (2002, Capitol): Australian dance-pop star, debut 1988, has sold over 80 million units worldwide, but didn't chart above 53 (her debut) in the US until this eighth album when platinum, peaking at 3. The beat, especially on the opener ("More More More") is enticing, but winds up feeling a bit empty. B+(**) [sp]

Róisín Murphy: Overpowered (2007, EMI): Irish singer-songwriter, grew up in Manchester, debut 2005 with three EPs leading to the album Ruby Blue, followed by this album, which sold well in the UK. Electropop, although it sometimes falls below functional dance-pop levels. B+(*) [sp]

Sinéad O'Connor: I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (1990, Ensign): Irish singer-songwriter (1966-2023), second album, a huge hit. I didn't care for her debut album or for her best-of, but this feels varied and masterful, if a bit beyond my ken. B+(***) [sp]

Alexander O'Neal: Hearsay (1987, Tabu): R&B singer, debut 1985, this his second (and bestselling, although 1991's All True Man came close) album, with occasional later albums, up to 2010 (or 2017?). B+(**) [sp]

René & Angela: Street Called Desire (1985, Mercury): R&B duo, René Moore and Angela Winbush, recorded four albums 1980-85, the first three for Capitol, this their first gold record, but went separate ways afterwards: Angela recorded three more albums, both having success in songwriting and production (René contributing to Michael Jackson; together they had written songs early on for Janet Jackson). Starts disco, but emphasis is on the funk, extending to a Kurtis Blow rap. [Spotify adds extra cuts, which I didn't manage to separate out.] B+(***) [sp]

René & Angela: René & Angela (1980, Capitol): First album, seven originals are decent enough, but I wouldn't say they have great chemistry. The cover is wildly unfortunate ("Hotel California"). B [r]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Benjamin Boone: Caught in the Rhythm (09-15]
  • Mike Clark: Kosen Rufu (Wide Hive) [09-08]
  • Scott Clark: Dawn & Dusk (Out of Your Head) [08-25]
  • David Ian: Vintage Christmas Trio Melody (Prescott) [09-22]
  • Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (Pi) [09-15]
  • Astghik Martirosyan: Distance (Astghik Music) [10-06]
  • Billy Mohler: Ultraviolet (Contagious Music) [10-13]
  • Jessica Pavone: Clamor (Out of Your Head) [10-06]
  • Simon Willson: Good Company (Fresh Sound New Talent) [10-13]
  • Superposition: Glaciers (Kettle Hole) [08-14]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Speaking of Which

The Republican Party has been skidding into dysfunction and madness for decades now -- take your pick when you want to start the plot -- but last week hit a new all-time low. Trump and eighteen others -- some conspiracists and others mere suckers -- had to trek to the Fulton County Jail to be booked on racketeering charges, something they turned into the mother of all photo-ops. Meanwhile, eight more Republicans presidential candidates showed up in Milwaukee for a Fox-sponsored debate forum, where they were torn between the need to prove themselves as alpha leaders and the terror of saying anything that could be construed as out of line with the dogma propagated by the oracles of the right, ranging from QAnon to Fox to Trump himself, whose 40+ poll leads exempted him from having to associate with such meager strivers.

Weeks like this make me think I should dust off my political book outline and finally get cranking -- although there seems to be little chance of that happening. Basically, the idea is:

  1. Introduction: The stakes of the 2024 election go way beyond the usual patronage interests of political parties. This is not just because Republicans and Democrats are rivals for popularity and power. The Republicans have become so obsessed with seizing and exploiting power, and so locked into a rich donor class and a dwindling, emotionally fraught base, that in their desperation they've turned against democracy, civil rights, reason, justice, and civility, leaving them with a political agenda incapable of addressing growing problems (like climate and war). The signs are obvious. For example, when Trump lost in 2020, dozens of Republican-controlled state legislatures passed new laws to restrict or interfere with voting rights. They've gotten away with this because they've been organized and ruthless, but also because Democrats have been ineffective at countering them. The first parts of the book will explore in more depth how and why Republicans have gone so wrong. The latter parts will suggest some ways Democrats can respond more effectively, and when they do win, govern better.

  2. History and structure: Here I want to look at the evolution of the two-party system -- with an aside on why third parties don't work -- and how it has evolved into a right-left divide. Part of this is the period scheme I've sketched out before: Jefferson-to-Buchanan, Lincoln-to-Hoover, Roosevelt-to-Carter, Reagan-to-Trump. (The first could be divided at Adams/Jackson. The second might have split with the Populist revolt of Bryan, but that break was suppressed. Teddy Roosevelt represented a brief progressive revival within the Lincoln-to-Hoover period, as Johnson did in Roosevelt-to-Carter. Washington-to-Adams has a similar pattern, but wasn't long enough for an era.) While the first three eras each marked a distinct shift to the left, Reagan is exceptional in moving to the right, so we need to explore that anomaly: particularly how Reagan's success moved Democratic leaders to the right, while driving the Democratic base to the left.

  3. The Modern Republicans: The core concept that Republicans are the only true Americans was forged in the Civil War, even as the Party was split from the start between progressive and conservative factions. However, with Goldwater conservatives became ascendant, but it was Nixon to taught them not just how to win but that winning was the only thing that matters. Nixon's dirty tricks eventually did him in, but his legacy was to take every advantage, to undermine opponents at every opportunity. Reagan and the Bushes did this, while seeming to be nice guys. Gingrich and Cheney weren't nice at all, and the base liked them even more -- especially as the Fox cheerleaders kicked in. After Obama won, Fox got ever nastier, and the Republican sweep in 2010 went to their heads. Trump was nothing but menace. When he managed to win without even getting the votes, Republicans knew they had found their messiah. Even after losing Congress in 2018, he held firm. And when he lost in 2020, he simply cried foul, and most Republicans were so invested in him, they played along. Karl Rove had contrasted self-actualizing Republicans to "the reality-based community." Trump went him one better, making his followers believe that reality was just a conspiracy against them.

  4. Republicans Against Reality: The problem with Republicans isn't just that they have no ethics, that they are inextricably wedded to graft, that the fear and hatred they exploit for votes rebounds against them, and the contempt they show for everyone else motivates opposition. They also have really bad ideas, based on a really poor understanding of how the world works. The theme for this section is to examine 4-6 problem areas and show how Republican solutions only make them worse. Some possibilities, in no particular order:

    • Government and the public interest: Reagan's joke and Norquist's bathtub. Attacks on civil service, including public sector unions, and expanding political control. Revolving door and regulatory capture. Privatization. Erosion of the very idea of public interest.
    • Macroeconomic policy, business cycle, wage suppression, inflation, bailouts for certain businesses.
    • Tax policy, increasing inequality, and consequences.
    • Mass incarceration, the erosion of civil rights, and the imposition of repressive thought control (e.g., in education).
    • Health care (opposition to anything that might help improve services and/or contain costs).
    • Climate change and disaster management.
    • Defense policy, opposition to international treaties/cooperation (except trade with the requisite graft), the wasteful deployment of armed forces in the War on Terror, and the reckless provocation of Russia and China.

    Obviously, each of these could be a chapter or even a book on its own, but they cover a broad swath of major issues, and are typical of Republican approaches.

  5. What Democrats Can Do: To counter the Republicans, Democrats need to do two things: they need to win elections, and they need to implement policies that deal constructively with problems. Republicans only do the former, and they do it mostly by convincing people that they should fear and loathe Democrats. It shouldn't be hard to turn the tables, given the critique of the previous chapters. Fear and loathing of Republicans isn't enough to clinch Democratic wins, but it is pretty widespread by now, at least among people with any idea of the Republican track record. But the other thing Democrats need to do is to build trust, and prove themselves trustworthy. Democrats are most vulnerable when Republicans can turn the tables and paint them as corrupt and/or out of touch (cf. the check-kiting scandal of 1994, Obama's aloof and tone-deaf confidence cult in 2010, and Hillary Clinton's courting of special interests in 2016).

    This could be divided into two sections, with one showing how the Democrats have compromised themselves, especially during the Reagan-to-Obama era. (It took Trump to finally repulse Democrats enough to stop tacking toward the center, although Bloomberg and others rose to do just that in 2020, anything to deny Sanders the nomination.) It's possible that many of these points may have been made in earlier sections. The second part would be a recommended behavior guide for Democratic candidates. I don't see much value in providing a catalog of possible problem solutions -- a subject for another book (or several). Rather, the goal is to show ways Democrats can respond to Republicans in ways that elicit trust from voters. Democrats need to listen and engage. They need to keep an open mind, and be flexible enough to change tack when better (or easier) solutions emerge. They need to balance off multiple interest groups, and they need to minimize losses when tradeoffs are necessary. They need to be decent and empathetic. They need to offer orderly transitions where change is required. They need to be very reluctant to force changes. They need to develop the skills to reason down people on all sides who get hung up on details. They need to respect differences of belief, and to avoid blanket condemnation. They need to recognize that there are limits to power, and shy away from overstepping. And they need to recognize that some things can't be fixed before they break, so that much of the work ahead will be recovery, and won't be helped by recriminations.

  6. Afterword: Is there anything left that needs to be said?

At some point, I should explain that the target audience for this book consists of Democrats who are active in electoral politics, and are trying to navigate the two requirements noted above: win elections, and govern to make conditions better. It is also for leftists who are willing to work within the Democratic Party to advance their ideas, which often involves coalition-building with people who don't share many of those ideas. Hopefully, it will help both understand each other, and join forces, at least for practical purposes. I also think that Democrats should accept that there are leftists who don't want to work with them, and not get all bent out of shape over that. Some Democrats seem to get way more agitated that some folks voted for a Jill Stein or Ralph Nader than that many more voted for Trump or Bush (or against Clinton or Gore). I won't go so far as to say that there are "no enemies on the left," but I have found that principled refuseniks are more likely to show up at a demonstration when you really need them than are your local Democratic Party workers.

The main way the book helps is in providing a historical framework to how politics has been practiced in America, and a general sense of how hopelessly divided we are on a number of important issues. I think this framework will make it easier to approach issues as they come up in campaigns. The etiquette guide may also help, but most people inclined to run for office already know most of it. There I'm more concerned with leftist readers, who may need to moderate their tactics, if not their views.

The book is not intended to convince Republicans (even Never Trumpers) or Mugwumps. That's different task, and may very well require a different writer. I do think that most people who vote Republican are very poorly served by their elected representatives. Maybe a few of them will open the book and discover why, but I'm not counting on that, and don't regard it as a priority. That does not mean I see no value in approaching such people politically. I think literally everyone will ultimately benefit from honest, flexible, responsible politics -- even billionaires who could take a big financial hit. But people are different, and need to be approached differently.

Such a book would ideally be published by early summer 2024, in order to have any impact on those critical elections. Of course, it's still likely to be generally useful after the election, and well into the foreseeable future. My fantasy is that someone will read it and decide to run. It can't have that impact in 2024, but there will be many more critical elections to come.

Still, nine months seems like a long time compared to the five hours I invested knocking the above out off the top of my head. Too bad I don't have the confidence to commit to that.

Top story threads:

Trump: His week was dominated by the order that he surrender to the Fulton County Jail, which produced a rather peculiar mug shot, and the usual senseless blather on Trump's part, and reams of reports and commentary elsewhere. Pieces on this (and other Trumpiana) are alphabetized below, with Zhou as an intro, his Wednesday-night debate diversion at the end.

  • Li Zhou: [08-24] Why Trump's surrender is such a big deal: "Everything you need to know about Trump's arrest, mugshot, and coming arraignment."

  • Li Zhou/Nicole Narea: [08-25] A visual guide to the 19 defendants in the Trump Georgia case: "The mugshots and the charges they face, briefly explained." I have to wonder about the mugshot process. For one thing, the Sheriff medallions are different sizes, with Trump's especially small, all but illegible. Also, Trump's picture is uniquely flattering, his face sharply etched in shadows while the glare present in most of the shots is limited to his shiny hair (which, as Warren Zevon once put it, "is perfect").

  • Aaron Blake: [08-26] Trump's Georgia case could get real -- quickly: With 19 defendants, each relatively free to pursue their own options, including the early trial date that Trump dreads. It's not unusual for defendants to plead out during RICO trials, which usually means testifying against their co-defendants -- of which one stands out as "more equal" than the rest.

  • Philip Bump: [08-25] Parsing Trump's post-surrender comments in Georgia.

  • Will Bunch: [08-27] Journalism fails miserably at explaining what is really happening to America: "Momentous week of GOP debate, Trump's arrest gets 'horse race' coverage when the story's not about an election but authoritarianism."

  • Margaret Hartmann: [08-22] Does Trump want me to think he's a flight risk? Well, he does like to be seen as unpredictable, even though he rarely is. He does tease a flight to Russia, but surely there must be preferable retreats for an itinerant billionaire on the lam?

  • Vinson Cunningham: [08-25] Trump's mug shot is his true presidential portrait: "He might be angry in the mug shot; he might even be scared. But he damn sure doesn't look surprised. Nobody is."

  • Ankush Khardori: [08-25] Lock him up? A new poll has some bad news for Trump: Most Americans believe Trump should stand trial before the 2024 election: 61% to 19% (independents 63% to 14%, Republicans 33% to 45%). About half of the country believes Trump is guilty in the pending prosecutions: 51% to 26% (independents 53% to 20%, Republicans 14% to 64%). Half of the country believes Trump should go to prison nif convicted in DOJ's Jan. 6 case: 50% for imprisonment, 16% for probation, 12% financial penalty only, 18% no penalty (independents 51% prison to 14% for no penalty; Republicans 11% to 43%). They also argue that "a conviction in DOJ's 2020 election case would hurt Trump in the general election," and "there is considerable room for the numbers to get worse for Trump."

  • Akela Lacy: [08-24] Georgia GOP gears up to remove Atlanta prosecutor who indicted Donald Trump: "Lawmakers invoked a new law that's supposed to target reform DAs. The real targets are Black Democrats." This is evidently similar to the law that DeSantis has been using to purge Florida of Democratic District Attorneys. But the grounds stated in the law are using discretionary powers to not prosecute state laws, so it will be a stretch to remove Willis for actually prosecuting a case. Not that Republicans think they need an excuse to trash local democracy.

  • Amanda Marcotte: [08-21] Let's pour one out for Mike Lindell: MyPillow Guy wasn't important enough to get his own indictment. Speaking of unindicted co-conspirators, Marcotte also wrote about: [08-23] Roger Stone's hubris exposes Trump's plan: New video shows lawyers faked distance from Capitol riots.

  • Patrick Marley: [07-18] Michigan charges 16 Trump electors who falsely claimed he won the state: This story is more than a month old, so "the charges are the first against Trump electors" is still true, but now they're not also the last. There is also a story by Kathryn Watson: [08-17] Arizona AG investigating 2020 alleged fake electors tied to Trump. Looks like there are also investigations in other states.

  • Kelly McClure: [08-27] Trump gripes on Truth Social that indictments are keeping him from PGA championships in Scotland.

  • Nicole Narea: [08-25] Why Trump seems to grow more popular the worse his legal troubles become: "Trump isn't Hitler. But when it comes to the courts, he's successfully borrowing the Nazi's playbook." But, like, is any of that actually true? Sure, Trump has a hard core following, but is it really growing with each indictment? He's good not just at playing the victim, but in acting defiant, but that's easy given how much deference his prosecutors have shown him. And is running 40 points above DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Pence, Scott, Haley, Christie, et al. such an accomplishment? All it suggests that Republicans are more into circuses than bread

    As for Hitler, the best analogy is the one Marx coined comparing the two Napoleons: the latter was as full of delusion and himself as the former, but had none of the skills, and few of the grievances, that made the original such an ill-fated menace. But Trump was never a failed painter, nor a battered soldier. He wasn't hardened by jail, and never tried to articulate a vision, even one as perverse as Mein Kampf. His agenda to "make America great again" was miraculously achieved on inauguration day, as him being president was all greatness required. Conversely, as soon as he lost the presidency, America fell back into the toilet. Hitler, on the other hand, just started when he ascended to power, and used it even more ruthlessly than Napoleon, until it consumed him, destroyed his nation, and wrecked much of the world.

    Given that there is little daylight between Trump and Hitler regarding emotions and morals, we are lucky that Trump is pure farce: he is stupid, he is lazy, and he understands politics purely as entertainment (which is the only thing he has any real aptitude at, although lots of us have trouble seeing even that). But not being Hitler doesn't make him harmless. He's created -- not from whole cloth but by building on decades of resentment and vindictiveness, from Reagan to Gingrich and especially through the talking heads at Fox and points farther right -- what may be summed up as the Era of Bad Feelings: a revival of right-wing shibboleths and fever-dreams that had mostly been in remission. And then there are the opportunity costs: things we will pay for in the future because we were too cheap, or dumb, or distracted to deal with when they were still manageable (climate, obviously, but also infrastructure, health care, and perhaps most importantly, peace).

    Nonetheless, Narrea has opted to go down this rabbit hole, by interviewing Thomas Weber, who's written about the comparison in a forthcoming book, Fascism in America: Past and Present (along with others writing on various right-wing movements). I've done considerable reading into the history of fascism, and as a person on the left, I've developed a sensitivity to both its politics and aesthetics, so these questions engage me in ways that most other people will find pedantic and probably boring. I won't go into all that here, but will note that even I find this particular discussion rather useless.

  • David Remnick: [08-22] The mobster cosplay of Donald Trump.

  • Jeff Stein: [08-22] Trump vows massive new tariffs if elected, risking global economic war: "Former president floats 10 percent on all foreign imports and calls for 'ring around the collar' of U.S. economy." Unlikely he's thought this through, but a reason for doing something like this would be to help balance a trade deficit the US has run since 1970 and never done anything serious about, because the dollar drain is either held as capital abroad or returned for financial services and assets in America -- both of which are massive transfers to the rich both here and elsewhere. But it's unlikely to happen, because it will upset a lot of apple carts, and those aggrieved interests will have no problem reframing it as a massive tax on American consumers, which it would be. For more, see:

    • Dean Baker: [08-23] Donald Trump's $3.6 Trillion Dollar Tax Hike: This might look bad for Republicans to be raising taxes, but the only taxes Republicans care about are ones that take money from the rich and distribute it downwards -- those they hate, and do anything in their power to kill. Tariffs, on the other hand, are taxes on consumption -- the only one of those Republicans get upset over is the gasoline tax (or worse, any form of carbon tax). Moreover, tariffs allow domestic businesses to raise prices and pocket the profits, so they're cool with that, too.

    • Paul Krugman: [08-24] Trump, lord of the ring (around the collar): Krugman hates the idea for the usual reasons, plus some extras. At least he admits that the economic inefficiencies are pretty minor. Given that any taxes raised will be quickly respent, his complaint about the regressive nature of the tax isn't such a big deal, either. His bigger point has to do with international relations, although he could explain it better. Trade makes nations more interdependent, and less hostile. Unbalanced trade, like the US has been running, also returns some good will. East Asia (China included) largely grew their economies on trade surpluses with the US, and that helps keep most of them aligned militarily aligned with the US (not China, but it certainly makes China less hostile than it would be otherwise). Trade wars, on the other hand, undermine relationships, promote autarky and isolation, or drive other countries into alliances that bypass the US (e.g., BRICS). The few countries the US refuses to trade with fester economically and become more desperately hostile (North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, and now Russia). They are usually so small that it doesn't cost the US much, but Russia is stressing that, and a trade war with China would stress everyone.

  • Caitlin Yilek/Jacob Rosen: [08-27] Trump campaign says it's raised $7 million since mug shot release. I had already snagged the Darko cartoon up top before linking to this. After all, he always does this.

  • Matt Stieb: [08-23] The craziest moments from Trump's Tucker Carlson interview. For more crazy:

  • Jeanne Whalen: [08-22] Trump promised this Wisconsin town a manufacturing boom. It never arrived. Also on this:

DeSantis, and other Republicans: Starts with the Fox dog and pony show in Milwaukee.

  • Eric Levitz: [08-24] Who won (and lost) the first Republican debate: Scorecard format counts DeSantis and Pence as winners; Ramaswamy, Scott, Haley, and "your grandchildren" as losers. The knock on Scott was that he tried to be sensible and was revealed as boring, while Haley tried to be serious and turned preachy (she "came across as the most informed, capable, and honest candidate on the stage. In other words, she's cooked." Levitz didn't mention this, but she was also psychotic on foreign policy, but sure, in Washington that counts as a synonym for serious). Ramaswamy, on the other hand, tried to be "the biggest sociopath at the prep-school debate" only to find out that he "just isn't [MAGA Americans] kind of conman." That left the candidates self-respecting Republicans can see themselves in, which is to say ridiculous ones. As for the rest of us, we don't count to this crowd. Levitz was much too kind in summing up their agenda for us as a loss to "your grandchildren." The threat of these politicians is much more urgent than that.

    For more on the debate (let's try to contain this, although it leaks out, especially in the attention suddenly being paid to Vivek Ramaswamy):

    • Intelligencer Staff: [08-23] 34 things you missed at the Republican debate: The live blog, so LIFO. Levitz skipped over Christie, but he wound up with the third largest talking share (after Pence and DeSantis). Chait noted how Christie got booed, and: "Christie picked the most moderate possible ground to object to Trump's attempt to secure an unelected second term. That stance was beyond the pale." As for DeSantis as winner: Hartmann noted "Ron DeSantis almost appears human," while Rupar conceded that "DeSantis is getting better at making normal human facial expressions." With Republicans, it seems that journalists have to take what they can get.

    • Dan Balz: [08-26] 'Democracy' was on the wall at the GOP debate. It was never in the conversation. Clearly, they view democracy as the enemy, but they can't exactly say that in so many words.

    • Emily Guskin, et al: [08-24] Our Republican debate poll finds Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy won: Poll limited to "likely Republican voters," with 29% to 26%. Nikki Haley came in third with 15%, Pence had 7%, Scott and Christie 4%, Burgum and Hutchinson 1%, 13% had no idea. Comparing pre- and post-debate polls, Haley got the largest bump (29-to-46%), followed by Burgum (5-to-12%).

    • Ed Kilgore: [08-24] The debate did nothing to diminish Trump's control of the GOP.

    • Rebecca Leber: [08-24] The first GOP debate reveals a disturbing level of climate change denial. The more impossible it becomes to ignore or waive away the evidence, the more dogmatic they become in rejecting the very notion, and the more they retreat from any possible compromise. Nor is this the only example. On virtually every issue, Republicans have hardened their positions into rigid principles that they will defend even if it involves wrecking the government. This is in stark contrast to the Democrats, who have long been willing to compromise anything. The result makes Republicans look strong (albeit crazy) and Democrats weak (while getting little sympathy for being sane).

    • Chris Lehmann: [08-24] The Donald Trump look-alike contest.

    • Amanda Marcotte: [08-24] Why do Republicans even bother with this whole farce? "trump wasn't there, but we saw why he's leading: GOP voters don't care about substance, just unjustified grievances." Still, a large swath of mainstram media took this "debate" as serious news, lending support to the idea that we should care about what various Republicans think, and that it makes any difference who they ultimately nominate.

    • Osita Nwanevu: [08-24] The first Republican debate was one long stare into a Trump-shaped void.

    • Christian Paz: [08-24] 2 winners and 3 losers from the first Republican debate: Winner: Donald Trump; Loser: Any alternative to Trump; Loser: Ron DeSantis; Winner: A pre-Trump Republican Party; Loser: Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum. I don't understand the point of the second "winner," but the audience reliably booed any least criticism of Trump, of which there were very few.

    • Nia Prater: [08-25] Oliver Anthony didn't love his song being played at the GOP debate: This should be a teachable moment. As I noted last week, the song's first two lines could have kicked off a leftist diatribe. That he then veered into stupid right-wing talking points was unfortunate, but anyone who believes that working men are getting screwed should have the presence of mind to see that the billionaires and stooges on the Milwaukee stage were the problem, not the solution. Also see:

    • Dylan Scott: [08-25] What the GOP debate revealed about Republican health care hypocrisy: "The GOP loves Big Government in health care -- if it's blocking abortion or trans care."

    • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [08-24] GOP debate bloodbath over Ukraine leaves room for agreement -- on China: "All agreed Beijing is the greatest threat to the US, particularly at the American border." Huh? Evidently, they believe that China is behind the fentanyl being smuggled in from Mexico, and that the best defense would be a strong offense . . . against Mexico.

    • Tony Karon: [10-24] [Twitter]: "Whether it's Republicans or Democrats, US presidential elections are conducted as TV game shows. America has entertained itself to death, as Neil Postman warned it would . . ."

  • Philip Bump: [08-23] One in 8 Republicans think winning is more important than election rules: "Another 3 in 8 apparently think Donald Trump adheres to those rules." I would have guessed it was more like 7 in 8, at least if you limit the question to party activists (politicians, donors, people who work campaigns, think tanks, and their media flaks), and phrased it in terms that didn't inhibit from expressing their beliefs. Their core belief is that anything that helps them win is good, as is anything that can be used to hurt the Democrats. I could, at this point, list a dozen, a score, maybe even a hundred examples. This isn't just competitiveness -- Democrats can exhibit that, too, although they're rarely as ruthless, in part because they believe in representative democracy, where everyone has a say, and that say is proportional to popular support. On the other hand, Republicans believe that power is to be seized, and once you have it, you should flout it as maximally as you can get away with. At root, that's because most Republicans (at least most activists) don't believe in democracy: they don't believe that lots of people deserve any power or respect at all.

  • Thomas B Edsall: [08-23] Trump voters can see right through DeSantis. Interesting. So why can't they see through Trump?

  • James Fallows: [08-23] "What's the matter with Florida?" "The GOP's doomed war against higher ed."

  • Van Jackson: [08-23] Vivek Ramaswamy's edgelord foreign policy: What do you get when you flail senselessly at the "secular gods" of "Wokeism, transgenderism, climatism, Covidism, globalism"? I had to look "edgelord" up, but here it is: "a person who affects a provocative or extreme persona," e.g., "edgelords act like contrarians in the hope that everyone will admire them as rebels." But wasn't Nixon's "madman theory" simply meant to confuse and intimidate others, not to woo voters?

  • Glenn Kessler: [08-25] Vivek Ramaswamy says 'hoax' agenda kills more people than climate change. The Washington Post's Fact Checker says: "Four Pinocchios."

  • Ed Kilgore: [08-25] Palin's civil war threat is a sign of very bad things to come. Mostly that Republicans think they'll prevail, if not at the ballot box (that one's pretty much sailed) then because they own more guns than Democrats. This assumes that the institutions of justice and violence, which they've been courting so assiduously all these years, will bend to the ir demands. That didn't happen on Jan. 6, and it still seems pretty unlikely, although it happens all the time in the "shithole countries" Republicans are trying to turn this one into.

  • Martin Pengelly: [08-25] Ramaswamy's deep ties to rightwing kingpins revealed: Leonard Leo and Peter Thiel, for starters.

  • Charles P Pierce: [08-23] Gregg Abbott has outdone himself again: "Exactly what are the upper limits of inhumanity he has to reach before the federal government does something about this mad stage play?" This time he sent a busload of refugees from Texas into a hurricane in Los Angeles, instead of doing the decent thing, which was to lock them up and wait for a hurriance to hit Texas.

  • Andrew Prokop: [08-23] Vivek Ramaswamy's rise to semi-prominence, explained. The first interesting question is how he got so rich. He started as a hedge fund analyst investing in biotech, then bought a piece of a company, which bought rights to an Alzheimer's drug that had repeatedly failed trials. He hyped the drug into a lucrative IPO, before the drug again flopped. Meanwhile, he sold off several other "promising" drugs, and cleaned out, going back into the hedge fund racket, and his intro to politics via books like Woke, Inc.

  • Ryu Spaeth: [08-25] What if Vivek Ramaswamy is the future of politics? Could be, as long as the media is more concerned with the performance of politics than with its substance. The most persuasive paragraph here is the one that shows how Ramaswamy draws on Obama: nothing substantive, of course, but much performative. So it's fair to say he's not just aimed at out-Trumping Trump. [PS: See Tatyana Tandanpolie: [08-24] Vivek Ramaswamy accused of plagiarizing Obama line at GOP debate. I wouldn't call that plagiarism. It sounds more like an homage.]

  • Brynn Tannehill: [] Republicans' border policy proposals are sadistic and would lead to chaos.

  • Prem Thakker: [] Republicans pushed almost 400 "education intimidation" bills in past two years.

  • Li Zhou: [08-23] A shooting over a Pride flag underscores the threat of Republican anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

From my Twitter feed, Peter Baker: "In 1994, 21% of Republicans and 17% of Democrats viewed the other party very unfavorably. Today, 62% of Republicans and 54% of Democrats do." Mark Jacob responded: "Call it 'tribalism' ifyou want. But another explanation is that one political party turned full-on fascist, and the rest of us found that unacceptable." Baker cites a WSJ piece by Aaron Zitner, "Why tribalism took over our politics," which offered "an uncomfortable explanation: Our brains were made for conflict." I haven't read the piece (paywall), nor do I particularly want to, as it seems highly unlikely that our brains manifested themselves on such a level only in the last thirty years.

Legal matters:

  • Matt Ford: [08-25] The one thing the Supreme Court got right: Blowing up college sports: "The NCAA's hold on its lucrative status quo looks more vulnerable than ever, two years after the high court ruled against it." On the other hand, it would have been better still to blow up the entire business of college sports, which are a massive drain (financial as well as mental) on higher education.

  • Stephanie Kirchgaessner/Dominic Rushe: [08-25] Billionaire-linked US thinktank behind Supreme Court wealth tax case lobbying.

  • Christiano Lima: ]08-24] Judge tosses RNC lawsuit accusing Google's spam filters of bias.

  • Ian Millhiser: [08-26] The edgelord of the federal judiciary: "Imagine a Breitbart comments forum come to life and given immense power over innocent people. That's Judge James Ho." Second time I've run across the word "edgelord" this week: I think it was more accurately applied to Vivek Ramaswamy (see Van Jackson, above), but the author was evidently hard-pressed to find words to express his disgust with Judge Ho. At one point he seems to give up: "There are so many errors in Ho's legal reasoning that it would be tedious to list all of them here." But then he comes up with five more paragraphs, before warning us that "Ho could be the future of the federal judiciary."

Climate and Environment:

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [08-25] Diplomacy Watch: Washington's 'wishful thinking' on Ukraine: Sub is "Russia hawks have no shortage of unrealistic assumptions underlying their views of the conflict," but one can say the same thing about American hawks, indeed about all hawks.

  • Dave DeCamp: [08-20] US 'fears' Ukraine is too 'casualty averse': This was the first of a number of recent articles where America's armchair generals are unhappy, blaming Ukraine's slow counteroffensive on reluctance to sacrifice their troops. This shows that those who suggested that America is willing to fight Russia "to the last dead Ukrainian" were onto something. On the other hand, it also suggests that Ukraine should reconsider its war goals in terms of what is actually possible. Some examples include:

  • Thomas Graham: [08-22] Was the collapse of US-Russia relations inevitable?.

  • Branko Marcetic: [08-23] Are US officials signaling a new 'forever war' in Ukraine? "Now that Kyiv's counteroffensive is floundering, goal posts in the timing for talks and a ceasefire are quietly being moved."

  • Fred Kaplan: [08-21] No, Biden hasn't messed up an opportunity to end the war in Ukraine: But he hasn't presented one, either. Rather, as long as Ukraine is willing to continue fighting, he's happy to keep supplying Ukraine with weapons, and to duck the question of whether the US has ulterior motives in backing Ukraine.

  • Anatol Lieven/George Beebe: [08-25] What Putin would get out of eliminating Prigozhin. The Wagner Group CEO was presumably among the passengers in a plane that crashed Thursday. Most commentators jumped to the conclusion that Putin was behind the crash, because, well, it just seems like something he would do. This piece doesn't offer any evidence. (Early speculation that the plane was shot down seems to have fallen out, with a bomb now viewed as the most likely. Another theory is that Prigozhin faked his death, with or without Putin's collaboration, but I haven't seen any evidence of that.) Lieven is usually pretty smart about reading Russian tea leaves, but he doesn't have much to go on here. More Prigozhin/Putin:

    • Robyn Dixon/Mary Ilushina: [08-27] Russia confirms Wagner chief Prigozhin's death after DNA tests.

    • Fred Kaplan: [08-23] Why it's easy to see Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane crash as Putin's murderous revenge.

    • Joshua Yaffa: [08-24] Putin's deadly revenge on Prigozhin.

    • Paul Sonne/Valeriya Safronova/Cassandra Vinograd: [08-25] Putin denies killing Prigozhin, calling the idea anti-Putin propaganda: There's no way short of a confession, of which there is none, to know if Putin ordered the killing, but he is right that the insinunation is "anti-Putin propaganda" -- one more instance in a long list of charges going back to the 1999 Russian apartment bombings, which Putin used as cassus belli to launch the Second Chechen War, followed by virtually every mishap that befell any of his political opponents ever since. The idea is to present him as a ruthless monster who cannot be trusted and negotiated with, who can only be checked by force, and who must ultimately be beaten into submission. For all I know, he may indeed be guilty of many of the charges, but he is still the leader of a large nation we need to find some way to respect and coexist with, to engage and work with on problems of global import. The purpose of anti-Putin propaganda is to prevent that from happening. The results include the present war in Ukraine, which, as Crocodile Chuck never tires of reminding me, is what happens when you start believing you own propaganda.

Around the world:

Back to school:

Other stories:

Adam Bernstein/Robin Webb: [08-26] Bob Barker, unflappable 'Price is Right' emcee, dies at 99: The show debuted in 1956. I watched it pretty regularly into the early 1960s, and learned one indelible lesson: how list prices were inflated to create the sense that sales offer bargains. Before we bought a set of World Book in 1961, the book I most diligently studied was the Sears & Roebuck catalog, so my knowledge of real prices was close to encyclopedic, and the list prices on the show often came as a shock. Barker didn't join the show until 1972, so I probably never watched him except in passing. But the persistence of the show is a tribute to the mass consumer society my generation -- the first to watch TV from infancy -- was programmed to worship.

Rachel DuRose: [08-25] AI-discovered drugs will be for sale sooner than you think: "It takes forever to get drugs on the market. AI could help speed up the process."

Ronan Farrow: [08-21] Elon Musk's shadow rule: "How the US government came to rely on the tech billionaire -- and is now struggling to rein him in." A long and not unsympathetic profile, which starts from the fact that Ukraine depended on Musk's Starlink satellite communications network, which allowed him to shake the US down for profits. But what may have started as a human interest story is rapidly becoming a morbid one, the critical flaw not the person necessarily but the power he has accumulated.

Adam Gopnik: [08-21] How the authors of the Bible spun triumph from defeat. Reflects on Jacob L Wright's new book, Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scriptures and Its Origins (out Oct. 19), which argues that the secret of the Bible's long-term success was that it provided a story of underdogs surviving against all odds:

The Jews were the great sufferers of the ancient world -- persecuted, exiled, catastrophically defeated -- and yet the tale of their special selection, and of the demiurge who, from an unbeliever's point of view, reneged on every promise and failed them at every turn, is the most admired, influential, and permanent of all written texts.

I've read several of Karen Armstrong's books, where she argues that the major religions invented in the first millennium BCE were attempts to limit the increasing horror of war -- one things of the waves of Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks across the Middle East, but India and China were similarly affected. It's hard to say they worked: even Christianity, which was untainted by military power until Constantine, proved to be amenable to state power. I still find it puzzling that more than two-thousand years later, the arts of war having advanced to an apocalyptic level, that no comparable progress has been made in religion, leaving us stuck grappling with these failed myths. As Gopnik notes, "Wright, like so many scholars these days, cannot resist projecting pluralist, post-Enlightenment values onto societies that made no pretense of possessing them." But what else can he do, other than disposing of the emotions that cling to belief in religion?

Sarah Jones: [08-25] What is a university without liberal arts? More on West Virginia Univeristy -- I noted Lisa M Corrigan: The evisceration of a public university last week.

Andrea Mazzarino: [08-22] The violent American century: "The ways our twenty-first century wars have polarized Americans." I give you an example at the bottom of this post. It's hard to imagine so many Americans stocking up on guns as a solution to their concerns for safety and order without the example of America's near-constant war -- at least since 1941, but especially since 2001, when the "enemy" became as nebulous and intimate as an idea.

Jonathan O'Connell/Paul Farhi/Sofia Andrade: [08-26] How a small-town feud in Kansas sent a shock through American journalism: The Marion County Record.

Emily Olson: [08-26] Thousands march to mark the 60th anniversary of MLK's 'I Have a Dream' speech. Also:

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [08-24] This is only going to get worse until we make it stop: "Republicans want to maximize the catastrophic heating of the globe. Democrats want to pretend to be doing something without taking on the fossil fuel industry." He starts by declaring that "I turned 34 yesterday." That means he should have 38 more years left than I have. That calls for a different perspective -- one I can't quite imagine, leaving me more in tune with the cad he calls Martha's Vineyard Man.

  • [08-22] There should not be "religious exemptions to laws: Or, if there should be a religious exemption, most likely the law is wrong -- he gives examples like forced cutting of Rastafarian dreadlocks, or the allowance for certain Indians to take peyote.

  • [08-21] How Rupert Murdoch destroyed the news.

Jeffrey St Clair: [08-25] Roaming Charges: Through a sky darkly: Usual grabbag opens with smoke close to his Oregon home, but goes far enough to note that Europe has had over 1,100 fires this summer (up from a 2006-22 average of 724), offers a map of Greece, notes the Devastating floods in Slovenia, and the parade of hurricanes currently crossing the Atlantic. Much more, of course.

Steve M (No More Mr Nice Blog) wrote a piece [08-23] Vivek Ramaswamy wants to deport two members of congress (and doesn't know one was born in America). I'm breaking this out because I want to quote a big chunk, after he quotes Ramaswamy bitching: "We need to weed out ingrates like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib who come to this country and complain about it."

Hey, smart guy -- you know that Rashida Tlaib was born in Detroit, right?

Omar, of course, is a naturalized citizen (though as Essence once noted, Omar has been a citizen longer than Melania Trump). It's true that Omar has said some critical things about America. But do you know who else "complains about" the U.S.? Every Republican. Republicans hate the president. They hate most of the laws passed during liberal administrations, and most of the laws passed in liberal cities and states. Republicans hate millions of their fellow citizens. They hate most of the nation's cities. And they have an inalienable right as Americans to feel all this hate and complain that America isn't exactly the way they want it to be. But Ramaswamy doesn't want extend this right -- a right Republicans exercise every single day -- to Omar and Tlaib.

I'm old enough to remember when "love it or leave it" was on the lips of every Cold Warrior, but what they really meant by "love it" was support America's imperialist war in Vietnam. A few years later, few Americans doubted that Vietnam was one of the worst mistakes the nation had ever made, but few conceded that antiwar protesters had been right all along, let alone that they cared more for the country than the people who led them into such an evil war.

Back then, as well as today, there was/is a certain type of American who feels the country is theirs exclusively, and that no one who disagrees with them counts, or should even be allowed to stay in the country they grew up in. And, as someone with only one set of immigrant ancestors in the last 200 years (my father's mother's parents, in the 1870s from Sweden), it especially galls me to be slandered by relatively arriviste "super-patriots" named Ramaswamy and Drumpf. (I'm not saying that newcomers can't be real Americans, but I have noticed a tendency to overcompensate -- as, indeed, my grandmother did, in totally discarding her Swedish heritage.)

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Music Week

August archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 32 albums, 1 A-list,

Music: Current count 40728 [40696] rated (+32), 19 [22] unrated (-3).

Another big Speaking of Which yesterday (8215 words, 134 links, words slightly below last week's record, but links are up). Since posting, I added a link to a piece on Stephen Miller's America First Legal suit against Target for losing money in a right-wing anti-woke boycott. I saw this story early in the week, and meant to link to it, but missed it in the round up rush.

I figured there was no chance I'd hit 30 albums this week, both due to distractions and a (probably seasonal) shortfall of tips, but I found some priority jazz albums in my tracking file, and they led me to some more, with the Lucas Niggli oldies pushing me over the top. I've long wanted to hit 100% of Intakt's back catalog.

I wound up the week with zero A- records, but thought Noname and Margaret Glaspy merited another spin (or as it turns out, three each). Noname was the easier promotion, but the best Glaspy songs are quite solid, and my main reservation is that sometimes my mind wanders. Similar exposure might have promoted Neil Young, or either or both Ivo Perelmans, but I chose not to go there. I think those grades are solid enough.

I finally did the indexing for July Streamnotes. I barely average 30 records per week in July, so I guess this has been going on longer than I thought. Sometimes it feels like a pointless grind, but like Speaking of Which, it's one of the few things I can do these days without too much strain.

Lots of useful information in Philipp Ther's How the West Lost the Peace, but it doesn't really live up to the promise of the title. It certainly is true that the West's single-minded pursuit of neoliberal capitalism caused harm every step of the way, but equally important was the blind spot that grew unaware as "defense." That Russia, having been excluded from integration with Europe both militarily and economically, and coming up on the short end of both sticks, would revive imperial longings now seems inevitable, even if completely foolish. Ther understands this on some level, but in the end comes down so emphatically on the side of Ukraine that he offers no exit path.

I was thinking I would read Christopher Clark's Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World, 1848-1849 next, but had to go to the doctor today, and wanted to carry a smaller book. Scrounging through my old shelves, I found a 1962 paperback of EJ Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, which leads up to that period. I bought it ages ago (the paperback price is $1.25), but don't recall ever actually reading it, but now I have to admit that the first chapter is one of the most brilliant pieces of historical writing I've ever encountered. I doubt I'll be able to put it down (even though I just read a pretty good short overview of the French Revolution in David A Bell's Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age of Revolution).

Correction: The Doug MacDonald album I reviewed last month as Big Band Extravaganza was actually titled Edwin Alley, and credited to Doug MacDonald Trio. Big Band Extravaganza was reviewed in January. Both reviews are so cryptic I doubt anyone noticed, but I've seen several hints that I screwed up, and balancing the books finally proved it.

New records reviewed this week:

Anitta: Funk Generation: A Favela Love Story (2023, Republic, EP): Brazilian singer-songwriter, Larissa de Macedo Machado, has several albums since 2013, this turns out to be a very short one (billed as a single, but 3 songs, 7:33), dance rhythms clicking. B+(**) [sp]

Itamar Borochov: Arba (2022 [2023], Greenleaf Music): Trumpet player, born in Israel, based in Brooklyn, fourth album since 2011 (Arba is Hebrew for four). Really nice trumpet, backed by piano (Rob Clearfield), bass (Rick Rosato), and drums (Jay Sawyer), with a bit of oud and some vocal effects. B+(***) [cd] [09-09]

Grian Chatten: Chaos for the Fly (2023, Partisan): Frontman for Irish post-punk rockers Fontaines D.C. tries a solo album, very different in style and pace. B+(**) [sp]

Claire Daly With George Garzone: VuVu for Frances (2021 [2023], Daly Bread): Baritone saxophonist, side credits back to 1990, only a handful of albums as leader. Garzone lends his tenor sax to broaden out the leads, a nice set of standards which rarely gets rowdy, backed by piano (Jon Davis), bass (Dave Hofstra), and drums (David F. Gibson). B+(**) [sp]

Dazegxd & Quinn: DSX.FM (2023, DeadAir, EP): Young beat producer, with young rapper Quinn Dupree. Scattered at first, but finds a crude groove. Seven tracks, 13:43. B+(*) [sp]

Kent Engelhardt & Stephen Enos: Madd for Tadd: "Central Avenue Swing" & "Our Delight" (2020 [2023], Tighten Up, 2CD): Alto sax and trumpet, the former a mainstay of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, running a full blown big band playing Tadd Dameron songs and a few originals, situating them in the transition from swing to bop. Several vocals by Erin Keckan are treats. B+(***) [cd]

Tianna Esperanza: Terror (2023, BMG): First album, 22, hard to piece together a coherent biography: British grandmother Paloma McLardy was in the Slits and the Raincoats, but she's mixed race, grew up on Cape Cod, through a litany of terrors she recounts in the presumably autobiographical title song (or if not, she has a pretty grim imagination). Comparisons to Nina Simone are apt, starting with the voice, but she's picked up more history than her publicity lets on. Could be an album that sticks with you, or misses. B+(***) [sp]

Miya Folick: Roach (2023, Nettwerk): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, studied acting at NYU before returning to USC. Second album. One review describes this as her "quarter life crisis." Most impressive when her anger rises, as in "Get Out of My House." B+(**) [sp]

Frog Squad: Special Noise (2023, Mahakala Music): Jazz group from Memphis, principally David Collins (guitar, vibes, keys, percussion) and Khari Wynn (bass), with a couple label ringers like Chad Fowler and Aaron Phillips joining in. Group has at least two previous albums, including Frog Squad Plays Satie. They lay it on pretty thick here. B+(*) [sp]

Margaret Glaspy: Echo the Diamond (2023, ATO): Singer-songwriter, from California, based in New York, third album since 2016 (Emotions and Math, a Christgau A-). She is at her best defending her "Female Brain," which in that case came up with something a bit funkier than usual. A- [sp]

Gloss Up: Shades of Gloss (2023, Quality Control): Memphis rapper Jerrica Russel, second album this year. B+(**) [sp]

K-Lone: Swells (2023, Wisdom Teeth): British electronica producer Josiah Gladwell, second album. B+(*) [sp]

Kimbra: A Reckoning (2023, self-released: Pop singer-songwriter from New Zealand, full name Kimbra Lee Johnson, fourth album. B+(**) [sp]

Låpsley: Cautionary Tales of Youth (2023, Believe): English pop singer-songwriter Holly Lapsley Fletcher, dressed up her middle name to look Scandinavian, third album. This slips up on you. B+(**) [sp]

Pat Metheny: Dream Box (2021-22 [2023], Modern): Guitarist, active since 1976, mostly in fusion bands I don't much care for, although he has other interests that sometimes bear fruit. This one is solo, quietly elegant. B+(*) [sp]

Lucas Niggli Sound of Serendipity Tentet: Play! (2023, Intakt): Swiss drummer, couple dozen albums since 1993, surprised there is no Wikipedia page for him, as his albums with Ali Keïta and Jan Galega Brönnimann are personal favorites. Large group here, but not many horns (tenor sax, tuba, flute), with organ, accordion, violin, celesta, melodica, bass, double drums, and voice/electronics (Joana Maria Aderl). B+(**) [r]

Noname: Sundial (2023, self-released): Rapper Fatima Warner, second album after a breakout mixtape, subtle beats under a torrent of words, some from guests who threaten politics. Before I got to this I heard cries of "antisemitism" just because Jay Electronica dropped a verse that namechecked Farrakhan -- far from the only preacher who wishes God's wrath on others, but the one whose name automatically elicits instant opprobrium -- and delved into the murky prophecies of Armageddon. (Perhaps even more politically incorrect these days, he says "a joke like Zelenskyy.") More explicitly political is the later verse by Billy Woods, recalling his childhood with revolution in Africa, or for that matter the closer with the more liberal Common. All reflect back on racism, which I figure is fair game, especially done this seductively, in a brief 31:54. A- [sp]

Arturo O'Farrill: Legacies (2023, Blue Note): Pianist, son of Cuban bandleader Chico O'Farrill, based in New York, typically records with the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, but drops down to a trio here, with Liany Mateo (bass) and Zack O'Farrill (drums). One original, one track by his father, the rest jazz standards, including Monk and Powell, Rollins and Hancock. B+(*) [sp]

Okonski: Magnolia (2020-21 [2023], Colemine): Trio, with Steve Okonski (piano), Michael Isvara "Ish" Montgomery (bass), and Aaron Frazer (drums). First album, all pieces jointly credited. B+(*) [sp]

Genesis Owusu: Struggler (2023, Ourness/AWAL): Rapper/singer, born in Ghana, grew up in Australia, second album. B+(**) [sp]

Ivo Perelman/Aruan Ortiz/Lester St. Louis: Prophecy (2023, Mahakala Music): Tenor sax, piano, and cello, two long improv pieces (55:10) recorded in Brooklyn. Their Brazilian and Cuban sources, with their African and Iberian roots, may enter a bit more than usual, as they feel each other out. B+(***) [bc]

Ivo Perelman/James Emery: The Whisperers (2023, Mahakala Music): Duo, tenor sax and guitar, thirteen improv pieces recorded in Brooklyn. Emery goes back to the 1980s, played in String Trio of New York, a duo with Leroy Jenkins, and various others. B+(***) [bc]

Bobby Rozario: Spellbound (2019-21 [2023], Origin): Guitarist, mother a semi-classican Indian vocalist, father a Brazilian drummer, grandfather a band master in the Brazilian Army, bio jumps around a lot without explaining where he landed. Strong Latin beat in much of this, several vocals, but something more. John McLauglin is almost certainly an influence, but that's just a starting point. B+(***) [cd] [08-26]

Tamara Stewart: Woman (2023, self-released): Country singer, born in Australia, based in Nashville, Discogs lists two 2001-05 albums, website offers three more recent efforts (2012, 2018, 2023), a lyric places her at 44. B+(**) [sp]

David Virelles: Carta (2022 [2023], Intakt): Cuban pianist, moved to Canada after 2001, studying and playing with Jane Bunnett, and on to New York in 2009. Eighth album, a trio with Ben Street (bass) and Eric McPherson (drums), both prominently credited on the cover. B+(**) [r]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Anthony Branker & Ascent: Spirit Songs (2004 [2023], Origin): Composer, born in New Jersey, parents from Trinidad and Barbados, has a 1980 debut album but discography really starts up with Spirit Songs in 2005. This appears to be a prequel, dusted off as a tribute to the late drummer, Ralph Peterson Jr. Sextet with Ralph Bowen (tenor/soprano sax), Antonio Hart (alto/soprano sax), Clifford Adams Jr. (trombone), Jonny King (piano), John Benitez (bass), and Peterson. B+(***) [cd] [08-26]

George Cartwright: The Ghostly Bee (2005 [2023], Mahakala Music): Saxophonist, best known for his 1984-2003 group Curlew, plus scattered releases under his own name since 1979. This one appeared on Innova, a quintet with guitar (Davey Williams), keyboards (Chris Parker), bass, and drums, organized as two long "suites" (77:37 total, all improvised). B+(*) [bc]

George Cartwright: A Tenacious Slew (2007 [2023], Mahakala Music): Another reissue, originally on Innova. Includes a bit of poetry by Anne Elias. B+(*) [bc]

Neil Young: Chrome Dreams (1974-77 [2023], Reprise): Demo album, considered for release in 1977, leaked in the 1990s as a bootleg, so now is official, 16 years after the release of another album, Chrome Dreams II. Most songs solo, but some are fleshed out with a band, notably "Like a Hurricane." Most of the songs appeared on his next four albums, up to 1980, with a couple stragglers. Those four albums run { A-, A, A+, A- } in my book, so this should too, but adds little, and feels a bit tentative. B+(***) [r]

Old music:

Lucas Niggli Zoom: Spawn of Speed (2000 [2001], Intakt): Swiss drummer, albums since 1993, this the first of four with this trio of Nils Wogram (trombone) and Philipp Schaufelberger (guitar). One of those odd three-legged stools that looks wobbly but somehow holds up. B+(**) [sp]

Lucas Niggli Zoom: Rough Ride (2002, Intakt): Second album by this trombone-guitar-drums trio. B+(*) [sp]

Lucas Niggli Drum Quartet: Beat Bag Bohemia (2007 [2008], Intakt): Three drummers plus Rolando Lamussene on djembe, mbira, voice, percussion. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Roberto Magris & the JM Horns: High Quote (2012, JM)

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Speaking of Which

Didn't really start until Friday, but by now this pretty much writes itself. I do notice that I'm dropping more bits of memoir into the mix. Also that I needn't comment on everything. But do read the Astra Taylor piece. Not sure when the new book is coming out, but you probably have time to Democracy May Not Exist: But We'll Miss It When It's Gone first.

I clicked on a bunch of articles, and ran into the paywall at The New Republic. Evidently my wife's subscription had expired. It's probably worth straightening out ($15/year is pretty decent as these things go), but meanwhile the articles that looked promising but I wasn't able to read:

Top story threads:

Trump: He got indicted again, and the resulting tsunami of press earned him his own section, separate from the Republican mill.

  • Alexander Bolton: [08-14] GOP sees turnout disaster without Trump. This suggests that a sizable bloc of Trump supporters will only turn out for him, so that if Republicans run some other candidate with the same effective program, a lot of voters are likely to pass. And since Republicans have alienated most people, they can only continue to win by thin margins (even trying to rig them, as they do). It is certainly true that a lot of Trump supporters really hate many other Republicans -- Mitch McConnell is a good example -- although they hate Democrats so much more that the GOP benefits when they show up. It's also true that Trump's fans are spectacularly misinformed about nearly everything, which is a trait Republican strategists bank on.

  • Jonathan Chait: [08-15] Lindsey Graham: Don't indict Trump, or impeach Trump, or vote against him: Two thoughts here: one is the extended portrait of Graham in Mark Leibovich's Thank You for Your Servitude, which paints Graham as an innate lap dog, who once took John McCain as his leader, a role that, to the surprise of pretty much everyone, Trump has since assumed (the insecurity to have made that transition is staggering); the other is the old maxim, "all's fair in love and war." We won't talk about Graham's love life, but no one in Congress in eons has exhibited a more kneejerk affection for war. Graham has always seen politics as war, so as long as Trump can be seen as an effective warrior (and Graham can hardly see him otherwise), anything can be excused (and most of it can be celebrated).

  • Kyle Cheney: [08-15] Special counsel obtained Trump DMs despite 'momentous' bid by Twitter to delay, unsealed filings show.

  • Isaac Chotiner: [08-16] The benefits and drawbacks to charging Trump like a mobster: "Racketeering statutes allow prosecutors to arrange many characters and a broad set of allegations into a single narrative." Interview with Caren Myers Morrison. Many people have observed that the Trump indictments are designed to tell stories. Morrison contrasts Georgia and Smith: "The other one's Raymond Carver, and this is Dickens."

  • Matthew Cooper: [08-17] Willis's indictment is "an overwhelming show of force . . . shock and awe": Interview with Jennifer Taub.

  • Norman Eisen/Amy Lee Copeland: [08-15] This indictment of Trump does something ingenious.

  • Adam Gopnik: [08-16] There is nothing élitist about the indictments against Trump: "The judicial system is doing its work, and the former President has never been a man of the people."

  • Danny Hakim/Richard Fausset: [08-14] Two months in Georgia: How Trump tried to overturn the vote.

  • Margaret Hartmann:

    • [08-18] Trump cancels press conference, will lie in legal filings instead: On Monday, he promised to unveil on Friday an "Irrefutable REPORT" about "the 2020 presidential election fraud that took place in Georgia." Then, big surprise, he bailed.

    • [08-18] Melania really doesn't care about Trump's indictment, do u? I had this theory back in 1988 that one of the reasons Bush won (besides Willie Horton, you know) was that voters took pity and decided to spare Kitty Dukakis the ordeal of being First Lady. She was clearly unstable and easily freaked out during the campaign, whereas, well, you might not like Barbara Bush, but you knew she could take it. It's hard for me to gin up any sympathy for Melania, but maybe someone should take pity on her. Maybe not as much as I dread a second Trump term, but putting her through a second term as First Lady seems like a lot of unnecessary cruelty.

    • w/Chas Danner: [08-19] Giuliani begged, but Trump refused to cover his crushing legal bills.

  • Richard L Hasen: [08-15] The biggest difference between the Georgia indictment and the Jan. 6 indictment: Race, which enters from several angles, but especially from Trump, who wasted no time in calling the prosecutor racist.

  • Quinta Jurecic: [08-15] Trump discovers that some things are actually illegal: "The cases against the former president aren't criminalizing politics. They're criminalizing, well, crimes."

  • Ed Kilgore: [08-17] A pardon won't save Trump if he's convicted in Georgia: They've rigged the system to make pardons virtually impossible.

  • Ian Millhiser: [08-15] Will anyone trust these hyper-politicized courts to try Donald Trump? "The federal judiciary is a cesspool of partisanship, and now it's being asked to oversee some of the most politically fraught criminal trials in American history."

  • Lisa Needham: [08-15] Trump's Fulton County indictment, unpacked.

  • Andrew Prokop: [08-15] The five conspiracies at the heart of the Georgia Trump indictment:

    1. Trump's effort to get Georgia officials and legislators to change the outcome
    2. Trump's fake electors
    3. Jeff Clark's effort to have the US Justice Department case doubt on Georgia results
    4. Trump allies' effort to influence poll worker Ruby Freeman's testimony
    5. Trump allies' breach of voting data in Coffee County, Georgia
  • Matt Stieb: [08-18] Threats from Trump supporters are piling up against the authorities: This seems like one of those articles that's going to grow to book length by the end of the year. The right-wing ecosystem is a cesspool of hate and malice, so violence is inevitable, and not necessarily preceded by easily traceable threats (such as the late Craig Robertson).

  • Jennifer Rubin: [08-20] Why Trump's Georgia case likely can't be removed to federal court.

  • Charles P Pierce: [08-18] I'm starting to think Donald Trump is untrustworthy: "He canceled a Monday presser that was sure to be the mother of all conditions of release violations."

  • Tatyana Tandanpolie: [08-16] Economic analyst stunned at sources of Jared Kushner's funds: "Just 1% of investments in Kushner's fund came from sources in the United States." No doubt Trump has done a lot of disreputable and dishonest things to get money, but he's never come remotely close to the heist his son-in-law pulled off, leveraging his multiple White House portfolios. The 1% figure looks bad, but the really outrageous number is $3 billion.

  • Hunter Walker: [08-15] The full story behind the bizarre episode that led to charges in Trump's latest indictment: "How Kanye West's publicist, an "MMA fighter," and a Lutehran pastor teamed up to pressure a Georgia election worker."

  • Amy B Wang/Josh Dawsey: [08-19] Trump to release taped interview with Tucker Carlson, skipping GOP debate.

  • Odette Yousef: [08-18] Threats, slurs and menace: Far-right websites target Fulton County grand jurors. Follow-up: Holly Bailey/Hannah Allam: [08-18] FBI joins investigation of threats to grand jurors in Trump Georgia case.

  • Li Zhou/Andrew Prokop: [08-16] Trump's 4 indictments, ranked by the stakes: About what you'd expect, but the Georgia election case could add up to more time than the federal election case, and couldn't be pardoned by a Republican president. (As I understand it, the Georgia governor doesn't have pardon power like the US president has. To secure a pardon in Georgia, you have to go before the state parole board.) The New York charges would also be more difficult to pardon, but aren't very likely to result in jail time. Ranked third is the federal documents case. The charges there are pretty air tight, and the maximum sentences are very long, plus such cases are usually judged harshly.

  • James D Zirin: [08-15] Will the prosecution of Trump have terrible consequences? "Maybe, but they're likely to be far less terrible than if he wasn't prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." I'm not sure I understand either argument. If Trump had quietly faded into oblivion, as Nixon did, I could see letting these charges slip by -- although pleading them out would have been better. But Trump couldn't let it go, so now he really should face a reckoning with his crimes (at least those he's been charged with -- no doubt there were many more). Will this have a chilling effect on the behavior of future presidents? Let's hope so.

    This is an aside, but I hadn't realized that Gerald Ford was given a John F Kennedy Profile in Courage award for pardoning Nixon. There was nothing conventionally recognizable as courage in that pardon. It was pure cover-up, meant to short-circuit further investigations, taking the story out of the press cycle, and saving Republicans from the continued association. Still, in one sense the award was completely predictable. In his 1956 book, Kennedy devoted a chapter to Edmund G. Ross for voting against impeachment of Andrew Johnson, who had become president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and who used his office to sabotage Reconstruction, speeding the return of white racist power in the South. Another of Kennedy's profiles was Robert A Taft, who was praised for his criticism of the Nurembert Trials of Nazi war criminals.

  • Zack Beauchamp: [08-17] The Trump indictments reveal a paradox at the heart of American democracy: "The Trump cases help us understand how America's democracy can be both strong and weak at the same time." Last section sketches out what he calls "the ominous Israeli parallel," which is interesting in that few people are willing to take it seriously, but is not quite the one I would make.

    The simplest way to make sense of politics among Israeli Jews is to divide it on two axes: conservative vs. liberal/socialist, religious vs. secular. The Palestinian "citizens of Israel" are off on the side, with their own conservative (religious) vs. socialist (liberal/secular) spread, but they are rigidly excluded from consideration by Jewish Israelis. The secular/liberal sector was dominant up to 1978, and still an important factor up to 2000, but have since been largely wiped out, as the right has taken the lead in fighting the Palestinians, while neoliberal economic policies have undermined traditional support for Labor. The religious parties early on were content to seek special favors from joining Labor coalitions, but with the rise of the right, they gravitated that way, and recently have become even more anti-Palestinian.

    That same matrix model works reasonably well for the US, at least if you buy the superficially ridiculous idea that Trump is the manifestation of the religious right. The key thing is that the more violence against others, the more people rally to the cult of violence, which is most clearly represented by the party of Armageddon.

    The big question in Israel is whether the threat to democracy from the religious right, which thus far Likud has indulged, will push enough moderate voters into opposition to curb the threat from the far right -- which threatens not just democracy but genocide. One could imagine a similar dynamic in America, but the far-right is mostly out of power here, unable to manufacture crises (although Abbott and DeSantis are trying), and are faced with a more deeply democratic/liberal political culture. Still, that Trump can be seriously considered as a political force, and that Republicans have had so much luck leveraging their power bases, means that the threat here is real. To get a better idea of how real that could be, look no farther than Israel.

DeSantis, and other Republicans:

  • Jonathan Chait: [08-18] 'Lock them up' is now the Republican Party's highest goal: "It's no longer about policy or even culture war but prosecutorial revenge." Nobody seems to remember this, but it was GW Bush who started started the purge of politically unreliable US attorneys back in 2006 (see Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy). I don't recall anything remotely like that under Obama, and Biden hasn't lifted a finger to curtail the Trump-appointed US attorney prosecuting Hunter Biden. You'd think that if Republicans genuinely objected to the partisan nature of being prosecuted by Democrats, they'd deny that if given the chance they'd do the same thing, but the opposite appears to be true: they're chomping at the bit. One pretty good bit here, about Trump:

    Trump's legal jeopardy is easily explained: His private sector record was a long history of shady associations with gangsters and running scams. His presidency was a continuous procession of his own advisers pleading with him not to do illegal things while he complained that his attorneys weren't as unethical as Roy Cohn, the mob lawyer he once employed.

    I wouldn't have bothered with the last clause, as anyone familiar with Cohn knows that representing the mob was nowhere near the most unethical thing Cohn did. Also that Cohn was more of a mentor to Trump than an employee.

    PS: Steve M. comments on Chait's piece: [08-18] Republicans think Democrats stole their act (and are doing it better), starting with a tweet from Ben Shapiro (if you don't know who he is, Nathan J Robinson has written reams on him):

  • Whatever you think of the Trump indictments, one thing is for certain: the glass has now been broken over and over again. Political opponents can be targeted by legal enemies. Running for office now carries the legal risk of going to jail -- on all sides.

    In some sense, that risk has always been there. John Adams passed laws to criminalize the speech of his political opponents, but he never got around to prosecuting his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, who did wind up prosecuting his, Aaron Burr. But for the most part, politicians behaved themselves, or at least managed to keep above the fray when their subordinates misbehaved (Grant, Harding, and Reagan are classic examples; Nixon only escaped with a pardon). But the idea of using criminal prosecutions for political leverage was mostly developed against Clinton, a period when "no one is above the law" was etched on every Republican's lips. Nothing comparable happened on during the Bush and Obama presidencies, although several people wrote books urging the impeachment of Bush (Elizabeth de la Vega was one, in 2006, although the Democratic Congress elected that year didn't touch it), and (as Chait noted) Shapiro himself wrote The People Vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against the Obama Administration, structuring his complaints as a RICO case.

    Trump, on the other hand, was hellbent on prosecuting his opponents from early in the campaign, when "lock her up" became a rally chant. He toned back a bit after taking office, probably realizing that he didn't really have the power to order prosecutions (though Nixon probably did just that with the Chicago 8 and Daniel Ellsberg), but where he did have power he exercised it politically (e.g., to fire James Comey, and to pardon a number of his allies). And in general, he behaved as someone convinced he was above the law, as someone who could never be held to account for trampling on the law, as someone who had no sense of justice other than seizing advantage. And he was above the law, until he wasn't. Prosecution for his crimes may be precedent-setting, but the crimes are very carefully defined, and the evidence overwhelming. As a precedent, it's also a pretty high bar. If a Democrat did anything comparable, most of us would have no problems with prosecution.

  • Ryan Cooper:

  • Beth Harpaz/Jacob Kornbluh: [08-14] Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn blamed Jews for boarding trains to Asuchwitz: And "more offensive comments he's made about Jews." But not a single one involved Israel, so he must be OK.

  • Ed Kilgore: [08-18] DeSantis targeting Ramaswamy in a debate a sure sign he's losing: It's hard to see how calling him an "inauthentic conservative" will pay off, but bashing Ramaswamy as a Hindu should help DeSantis with his bigotry bona fides.

  • Eric Levitz: [08-19] The rise of the young, liberal, nonwhite Republican

  • Nia Prater: [08-17] Trump supporter arrested for threatening to kill Trump's trial judge.

  • Matt Stieb: [08-18] James O'Keefe is now under criminal investigation: Conservative provocateur, recently ousted as CEO of Project Veritas, appears to be one of those guys whose "favorite charity" is himself.

  • Ben Terris: [08-17] Awkward Americans see themselves in Ron DeSantis: I'm not sure which one this reflects more embarrassingly on: the candidate or the journalist (who at least asks one further question: "but do they like what they see?").

  • Chris Walker: [08-16] Arkansas rejects credit for AP Black History -- but Europe history is fine.

  • Benjamin Wallace-Wells: [08-17] In Vivek Ramaswamy, the Republicans have something new: This left me hoping we never have to take him seriously, but fearing that he's proving much more effective at shoveling bullshit than his milquetoast competitors.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters:

  • Aaron Gregg/Jacob Bogage: [08-14] After conservatives' Target boycott, Stephen Miller group sues over losses. Miller's group is called America First Legal, "which bills itself as the conservative movement's 'long-awaited answer to the ACLU.'" It's unclear whether their mission is simply to degrade and ultimately destroy Americans' civil liberties, or they just mean to file lawsuits, like this one, to harass their imagined enemies.

  • Ian Millhiser:

    • [08-16] The fight over whether courts can ban mifepristone is headed back to the Supreme Court: "The far-right court just tried to ban an abortion drug. Here's why you can ignore that."

    • [08-20] The case for optimism about the Supreme Court: "There are some terrible things that even this Supreme Court isn't willing to do." With power comes some measure of responsibility, I guess -- something Thomas and Alito never learned, possibly because when they joined the Court, right-wing agitators were still a minority. Or they may simply bear in mind the threat that Congress can still restructure the Court, a chance that goes up the more they embarrass themselves as political hacks. Roosevelt's "pack the court" scheme wasn't very popular, but ultimately failed because a majority of the Court read the tea leaves and decided that Congress could legislate on issues like child labor after all ("the switch in time that saved nine").

  • Andrew Perez/Julia Rock: [08-18] The antiabortion judge with a financial ethics problem: James Ho, who cast the decisive vote in the mifepristone case Millhiser wrote about above. His wife, Allyson Ho, has "participated in events with the Alliance Defending Freedom and accepted honoraria, or speaking fees, every year between 2018 and 2021."

Climate and Environment: Record-setting high temperatures here in Wichita, yesterday and today and probably tomorrow. Next week we'll probably have news about Atlantic hurricanes, as no less than five suspects have been identified late this week. And while the rubble of Maui and the evacuation of Yellowknife are the big fire stories below, there are also big ones in Washington and British Columbia.

Ukraine War:

  • Blaise Malley: [08-18] Diplomacy Watch: Will Russia follow through on Black Sea threats? "Tensions are gripping the region as Ukraine begins to allow free passage from its ports past the grain blockade." The end of the Black Sea Grain initiative, and the subsequent Russian bombing of Ukrainian ports, not only hurts world food supplies, it also means suggests that Russia has decided that agreeing to such limits on its warmaking won't lead to further negotiation. This is at least partly the result of Ukraine crossing various red lines (mostly through drone attacks, ranging from Black Sea ships to the Kerch Strait Bridge to spots in Moscow), and partly due to ever-tightening sanctions hurting Russia's efforts to export its own agricultural products. Ukraine, meanwhile, is daring Russia to attack ships in its newly-christened "humanitarian corridor." Nothing else in this report suggests any diplomatic progress.

  • Paul Dixon: [08-15] Five lessons from Northern Ireland for ending the Ukraine war. These points are fairly reasonable -- especially the second that "everyone must win" -- but it seems to me that a partition plan, decided by popular vote that hands Russia a slice of Ukraine somewhere between the pre-2022 secession borders and the current battle lines, would be cleaner and simpler than trying to come up with a power-sharing agreement under a neutral Ukraine. That would allow Ukraine to join the EU and (effectively if not quite completely) NATO, while allowing ethnic Russians the option of moving east), so the pre-2014 divisions would effectively vanish. (One wrinkle I would like to see is the option of a revote in 5 years. That would provide both powers with incentives to rebuild and to rule responsibly.)

  • Benjamin Hart: [08-14] How Ukraine's counteroffensive might end: Interview with John Nagl, now a "professor of warfighting studies at U.S. Army War College," once regarded as one of the Army's counterinsurgency gurus. He's pretty gung ho on Ukraine, but he also admits that Ukraine can't fight the war the way Americans would, and that's the way he most believes in. He cites a piece by Steve Biddle: [08-10] Back in the Trenches ("why new technology hasn't revolutionized warfare in Ukraine") that gets technical about weapons systems and trench warfare, while ignoring the only fact that matters: that this war cannot be resolved on the battle field.

  • John Hudson/Alex Horton: [08-17] US intelligence says Ukraine will fail to meet offensive's key goal: "Thwarted by minefields, Ukrainian forces won't reach the southeastern city of Melitopol, a vital Russian transit hub, according to a US intelligence assessment."

  • Michael Karadjis: [08-17] The Global South's views on Ukraine are more complex than you may think: "The claim that developing countries are neutral about the war or even pro-Russian oversimplifies and distorts a more nuanced reality."

  • Paul Krugman: [08-15] Science, technology and war beyond the bomb: Tries to make a case that superior technology and "under the surface" tactical adjustments may still give Ukraine a counteroffensive breakthrough, analogous to the WWII Battle of the Atlantic. In support of this, he cites a piece by Phillips P O'Brien: [07-23] Weekend Update #38, arguing "Please give this time."

  • Branko Marcetic: [08-14] Can Washington pivot from its maximalist aims in Ukraine? Actually, many American presidents have talked themselves into a blind alley. Truman couldn't accept a Korean armistice that Eisenhower signed right after he took office. Johnson never got a chance to negotiate a deal in Vietnam. Perhaps most egregiously, GWH Bush's insistence that Saddam Hussein was Hitler redux made it impossible to explain why he stopped the rout at the border of Kuwait, leading to the grudge match in 2013. Anyone portraying Ukraine as a life-or-death struggle for democracy is either full of shit or incapable of thinking two or three moves ahead. Hard to tell about Biden, but some of his people definitely are both.

  • Peter Rutland: [08-14] Why the Black Sea is becoming ground zero in the Ukraine War: "Kyiv's counteroffensive efforts have focused on cutting Russia off from Crimea, while the grain export deal continues to falter."

  • Ted Snider: [08-16] Why peace talks, but no peace? When I saw this piece, I guessed it was about the recent conclave in Saudi Arabia which Russia wasn't invited to -- really more of Ukraine rehearsing its talking points (see Kyiv says Jeddah participants back Ukraine territorial integrity in any peace deal) -- but this goes back to actual talks, both before and after invasion, which the US and UK helped subvert.

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [08-17] Bill Kristol leads charge to make Republicans think 'right' on Ukraine: The neocon founder is juicing over another war, and has some lobbying money to work with, though probably not enough to stand up to Trump.

  • Marcus Walker: [08-20] Why Russia's war in Ukraine could run for years: "The reason isn't just that the front-line combat is a slow-moving slog, but also that none of the main actors have political goals that are both clear and attainable."

  • Lauren Wolfe: [08-14] In occupied regions, Ukrainians are being forced to accept Russian passports: While the annexation is not sanction by international law, the idea that this amounts to genocide mocks the concept.

  • Joshua Yaffa: [07-31] Inside the Wagner Group's armed uprising.

Around the world:

Other stories:

Dean Baker: [08-15] Getting beyond copyright: There are better ways to support creative work.

Paul Cantor: [08-18] The other 9/11: Next month will mark the 50th anniversary of the US-supported coup in Chile, where democratically elected president Salvador Allende was killed, as were many more (the final figure cited here is 3000), and replaced by Augusto Pinochet's dictartorship. Henry Kissinger was chief among the conspirators, and this figures prominent in his long list of crimes against humanity. Pinochet remained in power until 1990, and turned Chile into a laboratory for Milton Friedman's neoliberal economic theories, which needless to say were disastrous.

  • Robert Sherrill: [1988-06-11] William F Buckley lived off evil as mold lives off garbage: An old piece, basically a review of John B Judis: William F Buckley, Jr: Patron Saint of the Conservatives, which includes a section on Buckley's junkets to Chile to help Pinochet. Sherrill was 89 when he died in 2014. I remember reading his eye-opening 1968 book, Gothic Politics in the Deep South, which helped clarify some memories I had of visiting Arkansas when Orval Faubus was still governor. I also read, and occasionally drop the title of, Military Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to Music (1970).

Lisa M Corrigan: [08-16] The evisceration of a public university: "West Virginia University is being gutted, and it's a preview for what's in store for higher education."

Carter Dougherty: [05-22] A new vision for a just financial system: A laundry list of mostly good ideas, but the one that always strikes me as key is "provide public banking," which leads me to ask, what do we need all these other crooks and predators for? I don't anticipate outlawing them, and I can see likely value for innovation around the margins, but most banking transactions can be done simply and cheaply by a common non-profit, and that can easily extend into large classes of routine loans (credit cards, mortgages, small business loans, etc.).

Rachel DuRose: [08-12] What's going on with your lightbulbs? Perhaps they're right that "incandescent lightbulbs aren't banned," but they're getting harder to find, not that I've looked in 10-20 years, at least since LED manufacturers stopped trying to charge you for the 5-10 incandescent bulbs you might have bought during the expected lifetime of the LED bulb. I've moved to LEDs wherever possible: the main exception are places where only halogens seem to work; my happiest switch was finding I could replace fluourescent tubes with LEDs without having to rewire around the ballast, and they are many times better.

Jordan Gale: [08-18] An intimate look at Portland's housing crisis: "The ongoing housing crisis in Portland, Ore., has desensitized us to the real people who have been affected." A photo essay.

Peter E Gordon: [08-08] President of the Moon Committee: "Walter Benjamin's radio years." German literary critic, associated with Frankfurt School but legendary in his own right, 1892-1940 (committed suicide when jailed while trying to flee the Nazis). This collects what survives of radio transcripts from 1927-33, a wide-ranging commentary meant to be more readily accessible than his usual writings.

Constance Grady: [08-17] How does Elon Musk get away with it all? "The billionaire's heroic image is built on media praise, breathless fans, and . . . romance novel tropes." But hasn't he also become the object of intense ridicule, based on not just that he's a rich asshole but that he flaunts that image endlessly. Or am I missing something? And what's unusual about rich assholes getting away with things? Sure, Donald Trump is turning into an exception, but think of all the things he got away with before his luck turned. And as a rich asshole, he still has such enormous advantages, he may still get away with it.

Lauren Michele Jackson: [08-17] The "-ification" of everything: "it's an interesting combination of trying to do something original that is, in fact, already quite derivative. That's how culture works."

Chalmers Johnson: [08-13] Coming to terms with China: This is a piece written back in 2005 by the former CIA analyst (1931-2010), who wrote a series of books I recommend highly: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000; rev. 2004); The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2006); Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2007); and Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope (2010). In one of those books, he published a thought experiment as to how China could disable America's entire satellite network (all it would take would be to "launch a dumptruck full of gravel" into earth orbit), and how crippling that would be. This is a sober analysis of trends already clear in 2005 as China was emerging as a fully independent world power. He ends with the question: "Why should China's emergence as a rich, successful country be to the disadvantage of either Japan or the United States?" In particular, he warns that: "History teaches us that the least intelligent response to this development would be to try to stop it through military force." Yet we clearly do have strategists in Washington whose intelligence is that low.

Mike Joy: [08-15] Critics of 'degrowth' economics say it's unworkable -- but from an ecologist's perspective, it's inevitable. Looks like it was David Attenborough who said, "someone who believes in infinite growth is either a madman or an economist." Even some economists realized that infinite growth can't possibly happen (although I failed to find the quote; I vaguely remember Kenneth Arrow). One of the big differences between eco-activists and Democrats is that the latter see growth as the solution to all problems, whereas we (putting on that hat, which isn't my only one) see it as one of the most intractable of political problems. But at some point, I think it does have to come into play, as I don't see any viable alternative.

Stephen Kearse: [08-17] The return of Nonane: "In her new album, Sundial, the rapper melds her activism and artistry seamlessly." Before I heard this album, I ran into complaints of anti-semitism, a kneejerk reaction to guest Jay Electronica namedropping "Farrakhan sent me." So this review is first of all interesting to me because the reviewer didn't even notice the offense, casually grouping Jay Electronica with Billy Woods among "the fellow rap mavericks," with an oblique reference to a different line. Expect my review in the next Music Week. I wish I was as sure of her political acumen as Kearse is, but I also doubt that it really matters.

Chris Lehman:

  • [08-16] The patronizing moralism of David Brooks: "In a series of recent essays, the New York Times columnist has pronounced all social ills the result of deficient moral fiber among individuals." Reminds me of a Bertolt Brecht line, but the English translations leave much to be desired. ("Grub first, then ethics"? More like "morality is a self-satisfying luxury for those who have eaten." Not that Brecht couldn't be pithy, as in: "What keeps mankind alive? Bestial acts.") Still, isn't it possible to accept Brooks' analysis and simply ask "so what"? If problems are caused by "deficient moral fiber," why should that prevent us from solving the problems? Does it sound like too much work? Or is it possibly the sense of righteousness that accrues to people who can afford to look down their noses at others? It's even possible that people who "lack morals" now might develop some once their baser needs are met. On the other hand, I rather doubt that the conservative approach, which is to let people rot in their squalor, or just lock them away or worse, gives "morals" a very good reputation, or sets a positive example.

    Interesting note toward the end here about Christopher Lasch. I read much of his early work, but never got to The Culture of Narcissism, which as Lehman notes is widely cited by social scourges like Brooks. Lehman defends Lasch as much misunderstood, which certainly sounds credible to me. After all, the amount of stuff Brooks misunderstands seems boundless.

  • [08-18] The new bard of the right: More than you need to know about a country song by Oliver Anthony, "Rich Men North of Richmond," which earns its conservative bona fides by bitching about how taxes are spent on poor people (without, of course, noting the vastly larger sums spent making rich people richer).

    PS: Listened to the song and double-checked the lyrics. First verse could just as easily have turned left ("I've been sellin' my soul, workin' all day/ Overtime hours for bullshit pay"), but then he makes a couple fairly major blunders. You know about the punching down on welfare, which has been a right-wing trope for more than fifty years, but the other one still surprises me: "These rich men north of Richmond/ Lord knows they all just wanna have total control." This notion that "liberal elites" (which is what his phrase means, after stripping away the gratuitous Confederate angst) want "total control" is ridiculous on many levels, yet it is the common thread of right-wing paranoia (e.g., Bill Gates' nanobots disseminated through Covid vaccines). Such control, despite the diligent efforts of regimes like China and Israel, is impossible, and even if it were possible, no liberals would want it: central tenets of liberalism include that all people should think for themselves, and respect for (or at least tolerance of) different thinking by others.

    Conservatives, on the other hand, are opposed to those tenets, which makes their aversion that liberals want "total control" look like some kind of projection. On a practical level, this leads them to prevent students from being exposed to facts and ideas that may undermine their preferred beliefs, and where possible to ban those ideas from the public, while using the power of the state for harsh repression of any sign of dissidence.

    A couple more comments on this song:

Gregory P Magarian: [08-20] The revealing case of a Kansas judge and a search warrant: The Marion, KS police raided the offices of a small-town newspaper that had upset a local business owner.

Orlando Mayorquin: [08-20] Store owner is fatally shot by man who confronted her about Pride Flag. Her murderer was later tracked down and killed by police, further proof that while guns are good for committing crimes, they're not much good for self-defense.

Christian Paz: [08-14] How two pop culture Twitter accounts turned into the internet's wire service: "Are Pop Crave and Pop Base the future of political journalism?" Noted out of curiosity, which so far isn't sufficient to render an answer. I am, however, skeptical, and not just about these particular portals but about "political journalism" in general.

Andrew Prokop: [08-17] The mystery of Hunter Biden's failed plea deal: "Incompetence, malfeasance, or politics?" My best guess is mixed motives, undone by politics. The plea deal was a way for the prosecution to score a win, while Biden gets to put the case behind him without too much pain. But neither motive was strong enough to overcome the politics, where Republicans have been harping on "the Biden crime family" way before Biden ran in 2020. Without this drumbeat of harassment, I doubt the case would ever have been prosecuted, regardless of the defendant's name. In any case, credit Republicans with extraordinary chutzpah for juggling their political campaign against Biden while while still decrying political motives in re Trump.

Sigal Samuel: [08-18] What normal Americans -- not AI companies -- want for AI: "Public opinion about AI can be summed up in two words: Slow. Down." One significant polling result is: "82 percent of American voters don't trust AI companies to self-regulate." One proposal is that: "At each phase of the AI system lifecycle, the burder should be on companies to prove their systems are not harmful." Even this seems like a two-edged sword, as "harmful" can mean different things to different people. I'm inclined to limit ways companies can profit from AI, such as requiring the software to be open source, so we can get lots of eyes evaluating it and flagging possible problems. That would slow things down, but also help assure us that what does get released will be used constructively. If AI seems like a sudden emergence in the last couple years, it's because companies have hit the point where they have products to sell to exploit various angles. Given that most new business development is predatory, that's something one should be wary of.

Jeffrey St Clair: [08-18] The night the cops tried to break Thelonious Monk. No "Roaming Charges" this week, but this is worth perusing. It recounts the story of how Monk took a rap for the more fragile Bud Powell in 1951, and how Monk got blackballed by NYC, so he couldn't perform live during the period when he cut some of the most groundbreaking albums in jazz history. I first encountered these stories in Geoff Dyer's fictionalized But Beautiful, which I've always loved (although I know at least one prominent Monk fan who flat out hates the book).

Astra Taylor: [08-18] Why does everyone feel so insecure all the time? One of the smartest political writers working today, offers an introduction to her forthcoming book, The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as Things Fall Apart, where among much more she picks up on Barbara Ehrenreich's "fear of falling" theme (title of her "1989 study of the psychology of the middle class"). The more recent term is precarity. Much of this is quotable, as I'm reminded by tweets quoting her:

The relatively privileged have "rigged a game that can't be won, one that keeps them stressed and scrambling, and breathing the same smoke-tinged air as the rest of us."

"Insecurity affects people on every rung of the economic ladder, even if its harshest edge is predictably reserved for those at the bottom."

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: [05-29] The long afterlife of libertarianism: "As a movement, it has imploded. As a credo, it's here to stay." Review of The Individualists: Radicals, Reactionaries, and the Struggle for the Soul of Libertarianism, by Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi, while roping in several other books. This reminds me that one of my jobs, back in the mid-1970s, was typesetting reprints of several Murray Rothbard books -- for the Kochs, as it turned out -- so I got deep into the weeds of his arguments for privatized police and fire departments, among everything else. Thus I was able to make sense out of Michael Lind's quip: that libertarianism had been tried and had failed; it was just called feudalism at the time. (Can't find the exact quote.) It's easy to imagine the Kochs as feudal lords, because that's how they run their company (and would like to run the country), which not coincidentally leaves precious little liberty but anyone but the lords. Still, when governments do become overbearing, which is sadly much of the time, it's tempting to fall back on the libertarians for sharp critiques. It's just impossible to build anything that works from negative platitudes. As I think back, the new left was much smarter to focus not on government, which was a tool and rarely monolithic, but on power itself. I don't recall when I first ran across the maxim "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely," but it was well before I turned left, yet it remains as one of the great truths of our times.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Music Week

August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40696 [40662] rated (+34), 22 [12] unrated (+10).

I published another substantial Speaking of Which last night (8500 words, 115 links), probably the longest this year (or for that matter, since I started the title on June 18, 2021. I used the old "I can't figure out how to write about this, but here's sort of what I was thinking" trick for the long intro on why the longer you stretch out the Russo-Ukraine War, the worse it is for everyone.

I got off to a very slow start this week, partly because I made a fairly fancy Chinese dinner on Tuesday. I had gone to Thai Binh for some pantry items (hoisin sauce, ground bean sauce, dark soy sauce) and wound up picking up some eggplant, baby bok choy, and two packages of pork: a fresh ham, and a chunk of pork side. I made red-cooked ham with the former, twice-cooked pork with the latter: two of my favorite dishes, and they both turned out splendid. I sliced and broiled the eggplant, and topped it with spicy peanut sauce. The bok choy were parboiled and stir-fried. I substituted velveted shrimp for ham in my usual fried rice. And made pineapple upside down cake for dessert. Pretty painful, but very delicious.

I did some tests, then sent my Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1300 scanner back to Amazon. Some nice features -- I especially like feeding photo prints in from the front, which is very fast -- but the scans were of mixed quality, and most importantly I never got it working with my Linux computer (despite it being on the SANE compatibility list), so the workflow sucked. Probably the best scan I got out of it was my parents' wedding picture. I have a HP OfficeJet which can do flat-bed scans, but doesn't work well either. I wish I had sent it back in time, as it's probably the worst purchase I've ever made. Still on my list of things to do is to call HP and try to get some answers, why like the printer is recognized but refuses to print anything. Also why I can do test scans using Xsane, but not final scans. Also haven't fully resolved my email problem, but I did get one question. Could use some more.

Right now, the top technical task is to get my wife's Linux computer running again, after a boot error. Could be that the hard drive is toast. I ordered some parts for any eventuality, and will get to that tomorrow. One pleasant surprise was being able to pick up a 1TB SSD for $60. Last one I bought was a quarter that size for a bit more. Also ordered a KVM switch, as all my old ones are PS2/VGA medusae.

I did finally get the belts for my CD changer (from Greece, it turns out), so now if only I can remember how to reassemble it. That'll clear up some major clutter, as I had to take literally everything out of the box to get to the bottom belt.

One technical win is that dug into the C++ program that converts my music database input files to produce the web pages in my index. I wanted to make it possible to pass HTML entities through, so I could embed them in my source files. (I'm still stuck using the Latin-1 codeset, where the program converts all of the non-ASCII characters to HTML entities, as well as "&" to "&" -- which was my problem.)

I had a bit less trouble finding music to listen to this week. Robert Christgau's August Consumer Guide came out. The new records (see reviews below) mostly landed at B+(**), as did many of the ones I had already gotten to (my grades in brackets):

  • Amaarae: The Angel You Don't Know (Golden Child '20) [A-]
  • Amaarae: Fountain Baby (Interscope) [A-]
  • Miles Davis: Bitches Brew Live (Columbia '11) [B+(***)]
  • Fokn Bois: Coz of Moni 2 (Fokn Revenge) (Pidgen Music '14) [B+(**)]
  • Lori McKenna: 1988 (CN/Thirty Tigers) [A-]
  • Nia Archives: Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against the Wall (Hijinx/Island) [B+(*)]
  • Palehound: Eye on the Bat (Polyvinyl) [B+(**)]
  • SZA: SOS (Top Dawg Entertainment) [B+(**)]

That leaves a new Wreckless Eric album I haven't found yet. I'll also note that Greg Morton offered a stinging rebuke to the Lori McKenna album on Facebook (link hard to find, but somewhere in here). As someone with no children of my own, I took "Happy Children" to be a nice sentiment, but as an unhappy child myself, Greg's review hit a personal chord.

Beyond that I mostly checked out albums from Pitchfork's The Best Music of 2023 So Far, and their recent Out This Week columns. Neither were great sources for A-list albums -- Bambii is my favorite of the high B+ albums. I'll also note that Anohni topped Phil Overeem's latest list, explaining "Even if I wasn't a Missourian, where cruelty is our state adjective, it would have knocked me out." I gave it two plays to make sure I wasn't knocked out, but it's not unusual for me to register the melodrama but not the context. I'll also note that back when I lived in St. Louis, I started pronouncing the state name "mis'-ery" (sometimes preceded by "state of"). That was no more far-fetched than the locals' butchering of the city's many old French placenames (e.g., Grav-oise, Carondo-lette, De-boliver, the River Despair).

I got a lot of incoming mail this week, most of which doesn't actually drop until September (or sometimes October). I tracked down a Henry Hey download after noticing him on the Pete McCann album, but couldn't find anything on the album -- turns out it's not released until October -- so I held off on it. Pretty good piano trio. I have a lot of download links saved away. I should go through them and check out a few, but it often seems like more hassle than it's worth.

New records reviewed this week:

Rauw Alejandro: Playa Saturno (2023, Duars Entertainment/Sony Music Latin): Puerto Rican reggaeton star, fourth album, following 2022's Saturno. B+(**) [sp]

Anohni and the Johnsons: My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross (2023, Secretly Canadian): English singer-songwriter, originally Antony Hegarty, debut 2000 as Antony and the Johnsons, trans from an early age but didn't change name to Anohni until a 2016 solo album. A very emotional singer, this waxes and wanes, impressively at times. B+(**) [sp]

Bambii: Infinity Club (2023, Innovative Leisure, EP): Toronto-based DJ, Kirsten Azan, first EP, eight tracks (counting a short intro), 19:08, beats and vocals, some rapped. B+(***) [sp]

The Baseball Project: Grand Salami Time (2023, Omnivore): Alt-rock side project formed in 2008 with two guys who had fronted minor bands (Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn), another who could have but was in a major band instead (Peter Buck), Wynn's wife Linda Pitmon (drums), and more recently Mike Mills (bass). Fourth album, nine years after 3rd, seems less focused on trivia and, with Mitch Easter producing, more on song flow, but I'm not sure that's a plus. B+(**) [sp]

Blue Lake: Sun Arcs (2023, Tonal Union): Texas-born, Denmark-based Jason Dungan, plays "self-built zithers, drones, clarinets, slide guitars and drum machines." Third album, all instrumental, not billed as jazz, not electronic, may draw on folk but not obvious from where, so I wound up filing it in my little-used new age file, where it settled in nicely. B+(**) [sp]

Christian Dillingham: Cascades (2021 [2023], Greenleaf Music): Bassist, first album, but has a Grammy (played on a Kirk Franklin gospel album), wrote ten original pieces here, with Lenard Simpson (alto/soprano sax), Dave Miller (guitar), and Greg Artry (drums). B+(***) [cd] [09-01]

Dream Wife: Social Lubrication (2023, Lucky Number): London-based pop/punk band, Rakel Mjöll the singer (from Iceland via California), third album. B+(***) [sp]

Jad Fair and Samuel Lock Ward: Happy Hearts (2023, Kill Rock Stars): Half of Half Japanese plus a singer-songwriter I never heard of, but Ward has several dozen DIY albums, including at least nine volumes of The Lame Years, as well as close to a dozen group efforts like the Eggnogs, Kickass Tarantulas, and Admiral Cadaver & the New Pricks. This is as offhanded and minor as ever, needing more concentration that I care to muster, but I hear it's worth the trouble. B+(**) [sp]

Girl Ray: Prestige (2023, Moshi Moshi): British indie rock trio, third album, fond of disco riffs. B [sp]

Home Is Where: The Whaler (2023, Wax Bodega): Emo band from Palm Coast, Florida; second album, each preceded by an EP. Reminds Pitchfork of Modest Mouse, which is close but rougher and more volatile here. B+(**) [sp]

John La Barbera Big Band: Grooveyard (2023, Origin): Conductor and arranger, b. 1945, originally played trumpet, worked with Buddy Rich and others, brother of Pat (tenor/soprano sax) and Joe (drums), both present here. Conventional big band with a few extras. B+(*) [cd] [08-26]

Lil Tjay: 222 (2023, Columbia): New York rapper Tione Jayden Merritt, third album, first two peaked at 5. B+(**) [sp]

Lindstrøm: Everyone Else Is a Stranger (2023, Smalltown Supersound): Norwegian electronica producer, first name Hans-Peter, first couple albums were duos with Prins Thomas (2007-09). Four tracks (36:59). B+(**) [sp]

Damon Locks/Rob Mazurek: New Future City Radio (2023, International Anthem): From Chicago, Locks is a visual and sound artist with a couple Black Monument Ensemble albums, offering a verbal pastiche here that Mazurek fleshes out with trumpet and electronics. B+(*) [sp]

Pete McCann: Without Question (2022 [2023], McCannic Music): Guitarist, debut 1998, nice mainstream sound but I note that he also played in the Mahavishnu Project. Varied quintet, with Steve Wilson especially strong (alto/soprano sax), a standout solo by pianist Henry Hey, plus Matt Pavolka (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Haviah Mighty: Crying Crystals (2023, Mighty Gang): Canadian rapper, debut mixtape 2010 (at 18), second studio album. B+(**) [sp]

Blake Mills: Jelly Road (2023, New Deal/Verve Forecast): Singer-songwriter based in California, plays guitar, has a long list of side and production credits. B [sp]

Matt Otto: Umbra (2022-23 [2023], Origin): Tenor saxophonist, has a couple albums, one as far back as 1998. Nice, steady mainstream tone, default trio, adds guitar and Rhodes on five (of nine) tracks, plus trumpet (Hermon Mehari) on three of those. B+(**) [cd] [08-26]

Ted Piltzecker: Vibes on a Breath (2022 [2023], OA2): Vibraphonist, from Denver, fifth album since 1985, leads a septet with two brass and two saxes, so his own instrument tends to get buried. B+(*) [cd] [08-26]

Yunè Pinku: Babylon IX (2023, Platoon, EP): Electropop singer-songwriter, Malaysian-Irish, based in London, second EP (six songs, 23:25). B+(**) [sp]

Knoel Scott/Marshall Allen: Celestial (2022 [2023], Night Dreamer): Two alto saxophonists, the former also sings and plays flute, joined Sun Ra in 1979, only has a couple albums on his own. Allen boarded the Arkestra 25 years earlier, and at 98 is still at the helm of the ghost band. The pair are backed by piano (Charlie Stacey), bass (Mikele Montolli), and drums (Chris Henderson), on five cosmic tracks (36:59). B+(***) [sp]

Travis Scott: Utopia (2023, Cactus Jack/Epic): Houston rapper Jacques Webster II, fourth album, all bestsellers. Impeccable flow, rarely rising to the level where it demands my attention. No idea whether it would rise or sink if I did manage to focus on it. B+(**) [sp]

Snooper: Super Snõõper (2023, Third Man): Punk trio from Nashville, three previous EPs, started as a duo of guitarist Connor Cummins and visual artist/singer Blair Tramel, beefed up for this first album. B+(***) [sp]

Techno Cats: The Music of Gregg Hill (2023, Cold Plunge): One of many recent tributes to the Michigan composer, this a postbop quintet: Chris Glassman (bass trombone), Nathan Borton (guitar), Xavier Davis (piano), Javier Enrique (bass), and Michael J. Reed (drums). B+(*) [cd]

Kris Tiner/Tatsuya Nakatini: The Magic Room (2023, Epigraph): Trumpet player, based in Bakersfield, in a duo with percussion. B+(**) [cd]

TisaKorean: Let Me Update My Status (2023, Jazzzy): Houston rapper Domonic Patten, Wikipedia credits him with a bunch of singles and four mixtapes since 2017, but Discogs barely noticed him. The jerky rhythms and muffled words (rhymes?) are tough going, and not clearly worth the trouble. B [sp]

Tujiko Noriko: Crépuscule I & II (2023, Editions Mego, 2CD): Japanese ambient electronica producer, sings, Tujiko her surname. Long and uneventful. B [sp]

Veeze: Ganger (2023, Navy Wavy): Detroit rapper, second album/mixtape. Sludgy, surreal, long (21 tracks). B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Nastyfacts: Drive My Car + 2 (1981 [2022], Left for Dead, EP): Per Robert Christgau: "three white male NYC teens with their 18-year-old senior partner, black female composer-vocalist-bassist Kali Boyce. All three kick ass and then some." That shortchanges some details, like the skids and crashes on the title romp, or the male interjections on the closer. I might cavil about the length (7:38), but this is pretty tightly packed, with each song building on the previous. A- [bc]

Taylor Swift: Speak Now (Taylor's Version) (2023, Republic): I'm pretty indifferent to this series, which may be why I'm filing this under "reissues" even though I take them at their word that they're all new recordings. Both sides of the dispute are rich, and Taylor's only getting richer. I've heard the originals, but don't remember them enough to nitpick, and I'm not interested enough to go back. As a first approximation, I'd say they're pretty even, with a bit more excess baggage on the new ones, but they've tracked my original grades. This, her third album, was the first I graded A-, and I'm hearing it all again. Except this time I have a better picture of how big she promised to become in "Mean." A- [sp]

Old music:

Džambo Aguševi Orchestra: Brasses for the Masses (2020, Asphalt Tango): Macedonian brass band, the leader plays trumpet. B+(**) [sp]

Mighty Sam McClain: Give It Up to Love (1993, Audioquest): Soul-blues singer from Louisiana (1943-2015), sang in church, recorded some singles in the 1960s but no albums until 1986, and this seems to have been his breakthrough. A slow grind with organ and guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Kris Tiner: In the Ground and Overhead: 14 Miniatures for Muted Trumpet (2020, Epigraph, EP): Trumpet player, recorded these short solo pieces (14:29) "while in residence at Montalvo Arts Center in the forested foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains." B+(*) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Farida Amadou/Jonas Cambien/Dave Rempis: On the Blink (Aerophonic) [10-10]
  • Anthony Branker & Ascent: Spirit Songs (Origin) [08-26]
  • Michael Echaniz: Seven Shades of Violet (Rebiralost) (Ridgeway) [09-08]
  • Kent Engelhardt & Stephen Enos: Madd for Tadd: "Central Avenue Swing" & "Our Delight" (Tighten Up) [08-25]
  • Bobby Kapp: Synergy: Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (Tweed Boulevard) [09-01]
  • John La Barbera Big Band: Grooveyard (Origin) [08-26]
  • Pete McCann: Without Question (McCannic Music) [08-04]
  • Matt Otto: Umbra (Origin) [08-26]
  • Ted Piltzecker: Vibes on a Breath (OA2) [08-26]
  • Darden Purcell: Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood (Origin) [09-15]
  • Bobby Rozario: Spellbound (Origin) [08-26]
  • Brandon Sanders: Compton's Finest (Savant) [08-25]
  • Techno Cats: The Music of Gregg Hill (Cold Plunge) [08-14]
  • Kris Tiner/Tatsuya Nakatini: The Magic Room (Epigraph) [08-04]
  • Vin Venezia: The Venetian (Innervision) [10-20]
  • Maddie Vogler: While We Have Time (Origin) [09-15]
  • Bobby Zankel/Wonderful Sound 8: A Change of Destiny (Mahakala Music) [09-22]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Speaking of Which

Midweek I thought I had an idea for a real essay on an important issue. I then flailed for a couple days, ultimately writing nothing. That's not unusual these days, making me despair of ever writing anything worth being taken seriously. Then on Friday I pulled up my template for this weekly compendium, and started scanning the usual sources, and words came pouring out. I'm at 6600 mid-Sunday afternoon, and still writing.

The piece I had in mind was a reaction to Roger Cohen: [08-06] Putin's Forever War. I cited this piece last week, and wrote:

An extended portrait of a Russia isolated by sanctions and agitated and militated by a war footing that seems likely to extend without ends, if not plausibly forever. I suspect there is a fair amount of projection here. The US actually has been engaged in forever wars, boundless affairs first against communism then against terrorism (or whatever you call it). Russia has struggled with internal order, but had little interest in "a civilizational conflict" until the Americans pushed NATO up to its borders. On the other hand, once you define such a conflict, it's hard to resolve it. The US has failed twice, and seems to be even more clueless in its high stakes grappling with Russia and China.

I don't doubt that there is substance in this piece, but note also that it fits in with a propaganda narrative that posits Putin as an irreconcilable enemy of democracy, someone who will seize every opportunity to undermine the West and to expand Russia.

I'd have to research prior uses, but "forever war" seems to have appeared as a critical response to America's War on Terror, given its vague rationale and arguably unattainable goals, but the terms "endless war" and "perpetual war" go back farther, and have been applied to the US for cases like Vietnam and Central America (which goes back to the "gunboat diplomacy" of Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, which returned in different guise with Reagan, Bush, and Clinton). But the Cold War as a whole fits the term, as it was directed more against working class and anti-colonial revolts everywhere, and not just the Soviet Union that was imagined directing them. The Cold War lost a bit of steam when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991, but continues to this day, most conspicuously against North Korea and Cuba, but also more obliquely (I'm tempted to say aspirationally) China and Russia.

Despite these examples, "forever war" isn't a popular idea in America. At least through my generation, we grew up expecting quick, decisive wars: big wars like WWII took less than four years, WWI about half that, even the Civil War a few months more; Korea was largely decided in the first year, but stretched out to three as Truman refused to sign off; smaller wars were usually over quickly, as were Bush's in Panama and Kuwait. Vietnam was viewed as "endless" mostly by the Vietnamese, as they had struggled for independence against China, France, and Japan before the Americans -- Gen. Tran Van Don wrote a 1978 book to that effect. In America the preferred word was "quagmire," reflecting a decision to get into something that war couldn't fix, rather than evoking a struggle that would go on for generations.

Throughout history, most protracted wars occurred on the margins of empires. If you recognize America as an empire -- a word that Jefferson was fond of, although lately it's fallen out of favor, even as the evidence of 800+ bases around the world, and fingers in the affairs of virtually every country, prove the point -- "forever wars" are all but inevitable. Especially since the US built its permanent war machine, linked to an industrial complex whose profits depend on projecting potential enemies, which will supposedly be deterred by the terror the US could unleash upon its enemies.

But deterrence is a frail, fragile concept, one that works only as long as the country being deterred doesn't feel threatened. The Soviet Union jealously guarded what Stalin regarded as his sphere of influence, but had no real ambitions beyond that. Revolutions would have to come on their own, as happened in China, Vietnam, and Cuba. Most countries don't admit to feeling threatened, as it's easy enough to humor the Americans, and possibly advantageous to local elites. On the other hand, when Al Qaeda took a couple pot shots at American power, the doctrine of deterrence, built on the concept of America as the world's sole hyperpower, dictated war, even if the US had to invent proxy countries to invade. This show of absolute power only revealed its vulnerability.

But Islamic jihadists turned out to be only minor nuisances, leading to endless skirmishes in places like Somalia and Niger, while the arms merchants looked back longingly on the good old days of the Cold War, when weapons systems were expensive and didn't really have to work (e.g., the F-35), so they've fomented a propaganda offensive against Russia and China -- the latter still passes as communist, and the former is still Russian, so it's been easy to revive old tropes. Finally, they hit pay dirt in Ukraine, where they've been remarkably successful at avoiding any thought of compromise, leaving endless war as the only thinkable option.

Of course, they're not selling it as an endless war. They hold out a promise of Ukraine recapturing all of the Russian-occupied territory, even regions that had rejected Kyiv's pivot to the West in 2014. All winter we were regaled with stories about how Ukraine's "spring offensive" would drive back Russia (provided we delivered sufficient weapons). The optimism hasn't abated since the delayed "counteroffensive" started in June, but they've made virtually no net progress. In the long run, Russia has three big advantages: a much larger economy, much more depth in soldiers, and they are fighting exclusively on Ukrainian territory (although the native population of Crimea and Donbas have always favored Russia, so even if Ukraine regains ground, they may lose the defensive edge way before they meet their goals).

The other hope is that Russia's will to fight might flag, given how extensive sanctions have isolated the Russian economy. Again, there is scant evidence of this, and sanctions may just as well have hardened Russian resolve. There is also no reason to believe that Putin's hold on Russia's political structure is slipping or fragmenting. Sensible people would recognize this as a stalemate, and attempt to find some negotiated compromise, but hawks on both sides are working hard to keep that from happening.

Cohen's article is important for showing how Putin is organizing support for extending the war indefinitely by portraying it as a defense of Russian civilization against the West. In such a war, the stakes are so high that the only option is to fight until the threat gives up. We should find this prospect very disconcerting, and should take pains to assure Russia that we're still looking forward to a peace where we can coexist, work together, and prosper.

But America has its own coterie of civilizational warriors, who have been stoking this war most of their lives. They insist that Putin has been plotting revenge against the West since 1991, with the immediate goal of restoring the Soviet Union borders, moving on to restore the Russian Empire, and beyond that who knows? Most of these people are Russophobes dating back to the Cold War, and they may well have good reason for their prejudices, but turning them into ideological principles makes them useless in a world where war is so destructive that almost any kind of peace is preferable.

There must be people in the Biden administration to understand that such demonization of Russia (and China) risks developing into a war of unimaginable dimensions. There must be people who realize that cooperation is essential to keep economies functioning, to transition away from fossil fuels, to save human life as we know it. Yet they are cornered by arms merchants and strategists and ideologues who are willing to risk all that just for some patch of ground that ultimately means nothing.

I've insisted all along that there are ways to negotiate not just an end to this war but a lasting peace based on mutual respect and interests. The unwillingness on all sides in doing this is rooted in misinformation and disrespect. Cohen's article shows one set of myths taking root in Russia. Perhaps by examining those, we can also start examining our own.

I suppose that's one way to end a piece. Obviously, much more can be said. I refer you back to my original 23 Theses piece, and to the weekly sections on Ukraine in every Speaking of Which since Putin's invasion in late February, especially the Feb. 26, 2022 Speaking of Ukraine, where I heaped plenty of blame on Putin, but also wrote:

The real question is whether the US can come out of this with a generous, constructive approach to world order -- something far removed from the arrogance that developed after the Cold War, that drove us into the manifest failures of the Global War on Terror. Looking around Washington it's hard to identify anyone with the good sense to change direction.

A week earlier, I was already writing about the war drums beating, starting with "possibly the most dishonest and provocative [tweet] I've ever seen," and including links to titles like: Army of Ukraine lobbyists behind unprecedented Washington blitz; America's real adversaries are its European and other allies; Why every president is terrible at foreign policy now; and (just to show you I wasn't only thinking about Ukraine/Russia) Some Trump records taken to Mar-a-Lago clearly marked as classified, including documents at 'top secret' level.

I also ended with an 11-paragraph PS that worked up to this:

I don't know of anyone with a soft spot for Putin. I do know people who consider him less of a threat to world peace than the leaders of the country that spends more than 50% of the world's total military expenditures, the country that has troops and 800+ bases scattered around the world, the country that has (or works for people who have) business interests everywhere, a country that does a piss poor job of taking care of its own people and has no conception of the welfare of others, a leadership that so stuck in its own head that it can't tell real threats from imaginary ones, that projects its own most rabid fears onto others and insists on its sole right to dictate terms to the world.

I also wrote a fairly long piece on Ukraine and Russia back on January 27, 2022: NATO pushes its logic (and luck?). Not much more before that, at least relative to everything else, but it's interesting to scroll back, finding lots of stories that still reverberate, and comments that are mostly still appropriate.

Top story threads:

Trump: The indicted one continues to draw enough comment to merit his own section, mostly on his legal predicaments, as he as nothing else substantive to offer -- other than an exceptionally robust selection of "irritable mental gestures" (Lionel Trilling's description of "conservative thought," which has only grown more apt over seventy-plus years).

DeSantis, and other Republicans:

  • Fabiola Cineas: [08-10] DeSantis is still standing by Florida's revisionist Black history.

  • Nate Cohn: [08-10] It's not Reagan's party anymore: "Our latest poll leaves little doubt that Donald J. Trump has put an end to that era." This piece could be an exhibit in How to Lie With Statistics. The very concept of "Reagan's party" is pretty nebulous. He represented one faction in a more diverse party, but was at least tolerant of the other factions. Since the Hastert Rule, Republicans have become so homogenized that they only move in lockstep. Hence the transition from Paul Ryan to Trump has been like a school of fish all turning in unison. Especially spurious is the definition of "Reagan's three-legged stool": all three are vaguely but perversely defined, with Reagan himself clearly opposed to the leg defined as "prefer reducing debt to protecting entitlements" (debt exploded under Reagan's tax cuts and defense build up, while he raised taxes to shore up Social Security); "think America should be active abroad" is way too vague (what about "think Iran-Contra was a good idea"?); and "oppose same-sex marriage" wasn't even an issue for Reagan, whose contempt for gays was summed up in his hopes for the AIDS plague (thankfully, the government didn't actually follow his lead on that one). No doubt the GOP as evolved since Reagan, but it's usually been to universalize his most perverse impulses. In that, we should be wary of excusing him just because later generations of Republicans became even nastier and more brutish. Reagan, like Nixon before him, set the tone, which hasn't changed all that much with Trump. It's just become more shameless.

  • Ed Kilgore: [08-09] Ohio blows up the Republican plan to block abortion rights: Going back to the progressive era, Ohio allows citizens to petition for a vote on a possible state constitutional amendment, which can pass with a simple majority of votes. One is scheduled for November to consider an amendment that will ensure abortion rights as a matter of state constitutional right. After Kansas voted down 59-41% a state amendment to remove a constitutional right to abortion, Republicans in Ohio panicked, and pushed an amendment vote up to Tuesday, to change the state constitution to require a supermajority of 60% to pass future amendments. That's what got voted down this week, 57-43%, allowing the November amendment to be decided by a majority vote. Further evidence that no gimmick is so obscure or undemocratic for Republicans to try if they see some advantage. Also that people are wising up to their tricks.

  • Dan Lamothe/Hannah Dormido: [08-12] See where Sen. Tommy Tuberville is blocking 301 military promotions: I couldn't care less about the promotions, which are mostly general officers, but it is notable how Senate rules allow one moron to cause so much obstruction.

  • Rebecca Leber: [08-11] An insidious form of climate denial is festering in the Republican Party. They've basically reverted to shouting their denials louder, as if that makes them more convincing. Not that Republicans are unwilling to do something about "climate" if their incentives are aligned: they're pushing a "Trillion Trees Act," which is basically Bush's "Healthy Forests Initiative" warmed over (i.e., clearcut forests and replace them with tree farms). They also want to, quoting Kevin McCarthy, "replace Russian natural gas with American natural gas, and let's not only have a cleaner world, but a safer world." That's wrong in every possible direction.

  • Jose Pagliery/Josh Fiallo: [08-09] 'Weak dictator' Ron DeSantis ousts another prosecutor he dislikes: Orlando-area prosecutor Monique Worrell, a Democrat who won her district with 67% of the votes. DeSantis previously suspended Tampa prosecutor Andrew Warren. For more, see Eileen Grench: [03-04] Florida prosecutor reveals real reasons she landed in DeSantis' crosshairs.

  • Nikki McCann Ramirez: [08-10] DeSantis says drone strikes against Mexican cartels are on the table: I'd like to see this table, the one people are constantly piling stupid ideas on, just to show they're so tough and brainless.

  • Michael Tomasky: [08-09] Please, House Republicans, be crazy enough to impeach Joe Biden: "If Kevin McCarthy does what his unhinged caucus wants him to do, he may as well hand over his speakership to the Democrats." It's generally believed that impeaching Clinton hurt the Republicans (Democrats in 1998 picked up 5 seats in the House, and held even in the Senate, defying the usual shift to the party out of the White House). They had a better case then, and a slight hope they might panic Clinton into resigning. Conversely, it's hard to say that the first Trump impeachment helped the Democrats (who lost seats in 2020, but took the White House; after the second, they lost the House in 2022). A Biden impeachment would be even more obviously a flagrant partisan ploy, and is even more certain of failure. All it would do is expose how unhinged Republican rhetoric has become. So I'm not worried that they might bring it on.

  • Scott Waldman: [08-07] DeSantis's Florida approves climate-denial videos in schools.

  • Noah Weiland: [08-13] After end of pandemic coverage guarantee, Texas is epicenter of Medicaid losses: "Texas has dropped over half a million people from the program, more than any other state." In the early days of the pandemic, Trump and the Republicans panicked -- most likely because the stock market crashed -- and begged Democrats to pass a relief bill. What Schumer and Pelosi came up with was remarkable, and saved the day, while Republicans became increasingly upset that they had done anything at all. The emergency reforms all had sunset dates, but should have been the basis for extended reforms. Voters failed to reward Democrats for what they did -- the tendency is to assume that a disaster averted would never have happened -- and now the American people (especially in "red states") are paying the price.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Lee Harris: [08-07] Biden admin to restore labor rule gutted in 1980s.

  • Robert Kuttner: [08-08] Biden's New Hampshire blunder. Biden, or the DNC that he controls, decided to promote South Carolina (which Biden won in 2020) ahead of Iowa and New Hampshire (which Biden lost, both, badly, although as the incumbent he'd be very unlikely to lose them in 2024). Folks in New Hampshire put a lot of stock in being first in the nation. Aside from ego, it draws a lot of tourist dollars in the middle of winter. I've always thought this was a really terrible idea, and could write reams on why, but right now it's simply a boat that doesn't need rocking, fueled by rationales that don't need airing (e.g., NH is too white; on the other hand, SC is too Republican; NH gets a lot of press, but up third, SC has actually had more impact lately).

  • Jason Linkins: [08-12] This week's Republican faceplant has a 2024 lesson for Democrats: No matter how great Bidenomics is, the really persuasive reason to vote for Democrats is to save us from Republicans. There are many examples one can point to, but the stripping of abortion rights is one of the clearest and most impactful.

  • Chris Megerian/Terry Tang: [08-08] Biden creates new national monument near Grand Canyon, citing tribal heritage, climate concerns.

  • Jeff Stein: [08-12] 5 key pillars of President Biden's economic revolution: run the economy hot; make unions stronger; revive domestic manufacturing through green energy; rein in corporate power; expand the safety net.

Legal matters:

Climate and Environment:

  • Umair Irfan: [08-10] This strange hurricane season may take a turn for the worse: "Oceans are at record high temperatures, but El Niño is keeping a lid on tropical storms in the Atlantic." According to Wikipedia, there were three named storms in June (before the season officially started), but only one in July, and none so far in August. You might also check out the trackers for Pacific hurricanes (Dora, which crossed open seas, impacted Hawaii's fires with strong winds); Pacific typhoons (Mawar, which passed by Japan, was severe; Doksuri, which hit Fujian and dumped record rainfall as far inland as Beijing, and Khanun, which landed in Korea, were "very strong," as is Lan, currently approaching Japan); and Indian Ocean cyclones (Mocha, which hit Bangladesh, and Biparjoy, which hit Gujarat, were especially severe).

  • Benji Jones: [08-11] How Maui's wildfires became so apocalyptic: "A large hurricane, drought, and perhaps even invasive grasses have fueled the devastating fires in Hawaii."

  • Dan Stillman: [08-11] Unrelenting Hurricane Dora makes history by becoming a typhoon: The difference between a hurricane and a typhoon is the international date line: in the east Pacific, they're hurricanes; in the west, they're typhoons. Dora started up as a tropical wave that crossed over Central America into the Pacific, intensifying to Category 4 south of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on August 2-3, and has headed pretty much due west ever since, passing south of Hawaii but close enough to whip up the winds that fanned fires in Maui, and it's still headed west, varying between Categories 2 and 4. It seems to finally be degrading now, and the forecast shows it curving north.

  • Molly Taft: [08-11] Should climate protesters be less annoying? Sure. And I don't see how some of these examples help. But it's so hard to get heard that acts of desperation are all but inevitable, and are increasingly likely as more and more cautiously reasoned projections turn into hard facts (like the Maui fires this week). And if, for instance, Kim Stanley Robinson's Ministry for the Future is prophetic, there's going to be a lot more of what we like to call "eco-terrorism" in the near future, before serious people finally get serious about solving the problem. Even when the protesters turn offensive, turning away from the real problem to condemn them is a waste. They'll go away when you fix the problem, and until then should only be a reminder that you haven't.

Ukraine War:

  • Connor Echols: [08-11] Diplomacy Watch: China looms large at Ukraine 'peace summit' -- which wasn't in any practical sense about peace, but was intended to rally support for Ukraine's non-negotiable points. Echols also wrote: [08-07] America's top 5 weapons contractors made $196B in 2022.

  • George Beebe: [08-10] The myth of a strong postwar Ukraine. It's easy to spin glib prognoses about a postwar Ukraine, but there are many more questions than answers. For starters, recall that Ukraine from 1991-2014 fared even worse under capitalism than Russia. For all its vaunted democracy, politics in Ukraine were dominated by oligarchs, whose dealings may have oriented them East or West, without benefit to the masses. While the West has been happy to provide arms that have devastated much of the country, they have poor track records when it comes to rebuilding. Postwar Ukraine is certain to be much poorer than prewar Ukraine. Nor is the task of resettling millions of refugees likely to go easy. And a significant slice of a generation is likely to be marred by war, both physically and psychically. Compared to the existential crises of war, the question of whether various patches of land wind up on one side of the border or not is almost trivial -- no matter what the war architects think at the moment. Everyone loses at war, and everyone begrudges their losses. Beebe would like to reassure us that "ending the conflict sooner" still offers "better prospects," but there's no calculating how much has been lost, and how much more there still is to lose.

    PS: In reading Philipp Ther: How the West Lost the Peace, I'm reminded of the mass migrations after the fall of the communist states in East Europe, especially from East to West Germany. Basically, the most skilled and mobile workers left, leaving their old countries impoverished. Something similar happened to Russia and Ukraine with the departure of many Jews to Israel (and some to the US). Millions of Ukrainians have already left to escape the war. I wouldn't be surprised if most of those who can hack it in the West stay there, rather than return to their bleak and broken homeland. A second point is that the aid promised to the former communist states rarely amounted to much, and usually came saddled with debt and neoliberal nostrums that made a corrupt few rich but left most people much poorer. Maybe postwar aid will be more enlightened this time, but there is much reason to remain skeptical. EU membership will bring some redistribution, but with strings, and will make it easier for Ukrainians to stay in the West (or if they haven't already, to move there). And America has an especially poor track record of rebuilding the nations it has ravaged. Sure, the Marshall Plan helped, but that was 70 years ago, and really just an indirect subsidy of American business, with strings.

  • Ted Snider: [08-09] The Poland-Belarus border is becoming a tinderbox: Wagner Group forces are training new the NATO border. And now Poland plans to move around 10,000 troops to border with Belarus. Neither side appears to be asking "what can go wrong"? The Poles argue that the move will deter Belarus from misbehavior, but isn't that what NATO is supposed to guarantee? And given the NATO umbrella, doesn't Poland's move look like a threat?

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [08-10] Biden asks Congress for $25 billion in new Ukraine aid: The lion's share of a $40 billion emergency spending request, bundled with disaster aid requests Congress will be hard-pressed to reject. Vlahos previously wrote: [08-04] Most Americans don't want Congress to approve more aid for Ukraine war, with Republicans more reticent than Democrats. Still, Biden hasn't had any trouble getting Republican votes for Ukraine (or for anything that goes "boom"). Also:

Israel, again:

Around the world:

Other stories:

William Astore: [08-08] An exceptional military for the exceptional nation: "Recall that, in his four years in office, Donald Trump increased military spending by 20%. Biden is now poised to achieve a similar 20% increase in just three years in office. And that increase doesn't even include the cost of supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia -- so far, somewhere between $120 billion and $200 billion and still rising." Also:

The greatest trick the U.S. military ever pulled was essentially convincing us that its wars never existed. As Norman Solomon notes in his revealing book, War Made Invisible, the military-industrial-congressional complex has excelled at camouflaging the atrocious realities of war, rendering them almost entirely invisible to the American people. Call it the new American isolationism, only this time we're isolated from the harrowing and horrific costs of war itself.

America is a nation perpetually at war, yet most of us live our lives with little or no perception of this. There is no longer a military draft. There are no war bond drives. You aren't asked to make direct and personal sacrifices. You aren't even asked to pay attention, let alone pay (except for those nearly trillion-dollar-a-year budgets and interest payments on a ballooning national debt, of course). You certainly aren't asked for your permission for this country to fight its wars, as the Constitution demands. As President George W. Bush suggested after the 9/11 attacks, go visit Disneyworld! Enjoy life! Let America's "best and brightest" handle the brutality, the degradation, and the ugliness of war, bright minds like former Vice President Dick ("So?") Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald ("I don't do quagmires") Rumsfeld.

Astore cites the Costs of War Project, that "roughly 937,000 people have died since 9/11/2001" thanks to the Global War on Terror, which has thus far run up a bill of $8 trillion. Of course, GWOT gets little press these days: George Will has dismissed it recently as the "era of Great Distraction" -- insisting we return to focus on the more lucrative Cold War rivalry with Russia and China.

Dean Baker: [08-07] Taxing share buybacks: The cheapest tax EVER! Baker is right on here. Share buybacks would be easy to tax, and hard to evade. They would only take money that's already on the table, and if that tips the decision as to whether to buy, that's not something anyone else needs to worry about. Besides, share buybacks are basically a tax avoidance scheme.

Ross Barkan: [08-03] Has the socialist moment already come and gone? "Bernie and AOC helped build a formidable movement. Since Biden took office, we've seen its reach -- and its limits." Well, what do you want? Sanders was uniquely able to expand his ideological base of support because he's one of the few politicians in Washington whose integrity and commitment are unimpeachable. But also because he's actually willing to work hard for very modest improvements. He's inspired followers, but thus far no significant leaders. But does that matter? The possibility of a resurgent independent left is restrained, as it's always been in America and Western Europe, by two overwhelming forces: one is fear of fascism on the far right (Republicans); the other is the possibility of ameliorative reform from the center (Democrats). Why risk the former and sacrifice the latter just for the sake of a word ("socialism," or whatever)? On the other hand, as long as Democrats -- even such unpromising ones as Biden -- are willing to entertain constructive proposals from the left, why not join them?

Colin Bradley: [] Liberalism against capitalism: "The work of John Rawls shows that liberal values of equality and freedom are fundamentally incompatible with capitalism."

Robert Kuttner: [08-07] Eminent domain for overpriced drugs: "Exhibit A is the case of the EpiPen. It should cost a few dollars rather than the $600 or more charged by monopolist Viatris."

Althea Legaspi: [08-12] Record labels file $412 million copyright infringement lawsuit against Internet Archive: First of all, the Internet Archive is one of the great treasures of modern civilization. A lawsuit against them is nothing less than an assault on culture and our rights to it. Second, there are mechanisms under current law for dealing with copyright disputes short of lawsuits. They aren't necessarily fair or just, but they exist. It's possible that the labels have exhausted these, but that seems unlikely, given the ridiculous claims they are making about lost revenue from free dissemination of 50-to-100-year-old recordings that are already in the public domain in much of the world (just not the US, due mostly to Disney lobbyists). Rather, this appears to be malicious and vindictive, which is about par for the rentier firms that are pursuing it. Of course, it would be nice to write better laws that would if not tear down the paywalls that throttle free speech will at least allow them to expire in a timely fashion.

Eric Levitz:

Miles Marshall Lewis: [08-09] In 50 years, rap transformed the English language bringing the Black vernacular's vibrancy to the world: Part of a series of pieces on the 50th anniversary of rap music, which I'm sure will provide ample target practice for anyone who finds "the paper of record" more than a bit pretentious and supercilious. This one focuses on five words (dope, woke, cake, wildin', ghost), which represent less than 1% of what one could talk about. Links toward the bottom to more articles, including Wesley Morris: [08-10] How hip-hop conquered the world. I'm going to try to not get too bent out of shape.

Julian Mark: [08-12] 'Unluckiest generation' falters in boomer-dominated market for homes: "The median age of a first-time homebuyer climbs to 36, as high interest rates and asking prices further erode spending power." First I heard of the term (see Andrew Van Dam: The unluckiest generation in U.S. history), the more common one being "millennials" (born 1981-96). Van Dam's chart lists ten generations, each spanning stretches that average twenty years (min. 17, max. 30, start dates in order from 1792, 1822, 1843, 1860, 1883, 1901, 1925, 1946, 1965, 1981, ending in 1996; no data for 1997 and beyond). I've never put much stock in these labels, but have given a bit of thought to which years were the luckiest, and concluded that men born between 1935 and 1943 hit the sweet spot: the depression was waning, they were too young for WWII and (mostly) Korea, too old for Vietnam; they started work in the boom years of the 1950s, and many were well positioned to benefit from inflation in the 1970s; they moved off farms and into cities; many were the first in their families to go to college. They drove big, gas-guzzling cars, and quite a few retired to putter around the country in RVs. I have a half-dozen cousins who fit that profile to a tee. On the other hand, I never liked the Boomer designation, as it seemed to actually have three subsets: the leading edge got ahead of the expansion of education in the 1960s, which by the time I got there was already cooling; the middle got diverted to Vietnam; and the tail end had to fend off Reagan. Still, it's hard to feel when you get into your seventies, even if that's some kind of proof.

Of course, no generational experience is universal. Women were better off born after 1950, as career options opened up in the 1970s, and abortion became legal. What is pretty clear is that prospects have dimmed for anyone born after 1980. It also seems pretty likely that unless there are big changes, those born after 1997 will be even more unlucky. But it's more possible than ever for young people to understand what made some lucky and what doesn't, and to act accordingly.

Still, this particular article is more about housing prices than generations. The median US home sold in 2023 for $416,100, up 26% from 2020, which is pushing the age of first-time buyers up and up, to 36 from 29 in 1981. I'm beginning to think we made a big mistake long ago in treating houses not just as necessities but as stores of wealth and vehicles for investment.

Steven Lee Myers/Benjamin Mullin: [08-13] Raids of small Kansas newspaper raises free press concerns: "The search of the Marion County Record led to the seizure of computers, servers and cellphones of reporters and editors."

James Robins: [08-08] The 1848 revolutions did not fail: "The year that Europe went to the barricades changed the world. But it has not left the same impression on the public imagination as 1789 or 1917." Review of Christopher Clark: Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World, 1848-1849. This is a piece of history I've neglected, although I have a theory -- partly informed by Arno Mayer's The Persistence of the Old Regime, perhaps by Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution, and more generally by Marx -- that 1848 marked the end of bourgeois revolutions, as the rising of workers convinced the bourgeoisie and the aristocracy that they had more in common. Clark has an earlier book, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, so perhaps he's looking backwards as well. China Miéville has another book on 1848, from a different perspective: A Spectre, Haunting: On the Communist Manifesto.

Nathan J Robinson: [08-11] You either see everyone else as a human being or you don't: "It's obviously morally abominable to booby-trap the borders with razors. But some people think desperate migrants deserve whatever cruelties we inflict on."

Aja Romano: [08-11] The Montgomery boat brawl and what it really means to "try that in a small town": The viral fight valorized Black resistance -- and punctured Jason Aldean's racist 'small town' narrative."

Jeffrey St Clair: [08-11] Roaming Charges: Mad at the world. Seems like every week brings another story like this one:

An Arkansas woman called 911. When the cops arrived, an officer was frightened by her Pomeranian, shot at the dog and missed, hitting the woman in the leg. The cop then tries to tell her the bullet hole in her leg is probably just a scratch from the dog.

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Monday, August 7, 2023

Music Week

August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 40662 [40636] rated (+26), 12 [14] unrated (-2).

I published another Speaking of Which yesterday (5691 words, 93 links). Could have written much more, but couldn't find the time, and by Sunday evening the will was flagging as well.

I have even less to say about this week's music, or for that matter this past week. I'm making minor progress on my technical projects, but still have a lot more to do. Posting this early will open up some time on Monday. One thing I did get done last week was a trip to Thai Binh, as I was running low on hoisin sauce. While there, I picked up some pork and eggplants, so I need to cook dinner on Tuesday, and make time for all that entails. At last, a project with a reasonable expectation of completion.

Christian Iszchak wrote a longer review of Flang Dang. I heard the mid-1970s albums when they came out, but haven't played them in ages, and probably only have them on vinyl (if that). I had the record in my tracking file, but hadn't pursued it. But I had checked out a couple of his more recent albums. I also remember his earlier group, Amen Corner, but didn't register anything by it in my database.

I didn't get July's indexing done (or at least I don't remember doing it), so maybe next week.

New records reviewed this week:

Aline's Etoile Magique: Eclipse (2023, Elastic): Violinist Aline Homzy, from Montreal, based in New York. Quintet with vibes, guitar, bass, and percussion, plus some guest spots. B+(**) [cd] [08-25]

Bdrmm: I Don't Know (2023, Rock Action): British shoegaze band, Ryan Smith the vocalist, second album. Influences "drawn from a wider range of sounds," blended together nice but indecisively. B+(*) [sp]

Gordon Beeferman/Michael Evans/Michael Foster/Shelley Hirsch: Glow (2021 [2023], Tripticks Tapes): Keyboard player, half-dozen albums back to 2001, with drums and tenor/soprano sax, with Hirsch's improvised vocals. B+(*) [bc]

Will Bernard & Beth Custer: Sky (2023, Dreck to Disk): Guitar and clarinet duo, with Custer singing a couple (like "John Brown's Body"). Low key and down home. B+(*) [cd] [09-05]

Geof Bradfield Quintet: Quaver (2021 [2023], Calligram): Tenor saxophonist, born in Houston, based in Chicago, albums since 2008 plus a fair number of side credits. Quintet with Russ Johnson (trumpet), Scott Hesse (guitar), Clark Sommers (bass), and Dana Hall (drums). B+(***) [cd]

The Clientele: I Am Not There Anymore (2023, Merge): British indie rock band, founded 1991 but first album not until 2000, this only their second since 2010. B+(*) [sp]

Bethany Cosentino: Natural Disaster (2023, Concord): Singer for Best Coast, four albums 2010-20, first solo album, amps up the pop riffs, finding excitement in topical events that would bum most people out. B+(***) [sp]

Ember: August in March (2023, Imani): Brooklyn trio, fronted by Caleb Wheeler Curtis (strich, trumpet, reed trumpet -- never heard of the latter, but his native instrument is alto sax), with bass (Noah Garabedian) and drums (Vincent Sperrazza), group has a 2021 album with Orrin Evans. One of many terrific free sax trios this year, with a neat twist. A- [cd] [08-11]

Foo Fighters: But Here We Are (2023, Roswell/RCA): Grunge band from Seattle, formed 1994 by ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, who switched over to guitar and vocals. Eleventh studio album, fifth I've heard, having skipped the last three. No rush on this one either, but it showed up on three mid-year lists, and is probably the highest-rated non-metal album that I hadn't bothered with (86/31 at AOTY). Starts off tolerable enough, but the anguish is communicable. B- [sp]

Michael Foster: The Industrious Tongue of Michael Foster (2022, Relative Pitch): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), produces his inevitable solo album, aided by sampler and oscillators, featuring more tongue effects than outright blowing. B+(*) [sp]

Leo Genovese/Demian Cabaud/Marcos Cavaleiro: Estrellero (2023, Sunnyside): Piano-bass-drums trio, the first two Argentines who studied at Berklee, with Cabaud moving on to Portugal, where he met the drummer. B+(**) [sp]

Georgia: Euphoric (2023, Domino): British pop singer Georgia Barnes, third album. B+(***) [sp]

The Ghost: Vanished Pleasures (2023, Relative Pitch): Tenor/soprano saxophonist Michael Foster, leading a free jazz trio with bass (Jared Radichel) and drums (Joey Sullivan). Quite a few albums since 2013, a couple under this name (but with different players). B+(***) [sp]

Cory Hanson: Western Cum (2023, Drag City): Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, third album, previous titles The Unborn Capitalist From Limbo and Pale Horse Rider. Leads with guitar, which remains dominant even when buried in the band sound. B+(*) [sp]

J Hus: Beautiful and Brutal Yard (2023, Black Butter): British rapper Momodou Jallow, parents Gambian, third album. B+(**) [sp]

Mike Jones Trio: Are You Sure You Three Guys Know What You're Doing? (2022 [2023], Capri): Pianist, goes back to the 1990s, with Penn Jillette (bass) and Jeff Hamilton (drums). Standards, everything from "Perdido" to Jobim, closing with an original. B+(**) [cd] [08-18]

Andy Fairweather Low: Flang Dang (2023, Last Music): Welsh singer-songwriter, recorded three low-key but remarkably catchy albums 1974-76, but virtually nothing after 1980 up to 2006 (exception is the 1983 Moments of Madness, credited to Local Boys). Since then he's turned out several live albums, coasting on his reputation, such as it is. But it appears the lockdown got him to concentrate, to write some new songs and play everything but the drums. The label calls this "a remarkable return to form," but it's also a disarmingly engaging return to basics. A- [sp]

Lowcountry: Lowcountry (2023, Ropeadope): A group of Gullah singers and storytellers from South Carolina, led by trumpeter/composer Matt White and percussionist Quentin E. Baxter, talk and sing some, rooted in one of the few American communities that retains much of its African past, framed by a a string quartet and a jazz combo, including ringer Chris Potter on tenor sax. B+(***) [cd]

Chad McCullough: The Charm of Impossibilities (2022 [2023], Calligram): Seattle-based trumpet player, albums since 2009 including several groups. Cut this one in Chicago, with Jon Irabagon (tenor/soprano sax), Larry Kohut (bass), and Jon Deitemyer (drums), with Tim Hagans co-producing. Credits Olivier Messiaen's "Techniques of My Musical Language," while finding his own. A- [cd]

Jesper Nordberg: Trio (2023, Gotta Let It Out): Danish bassist, first album, trio with violin (Stefan Pōntinen) and Ruhi Erdogan (trumpet). Good use of these pairings. B+(***) [bc]

Kresten Osgood/Bob Moses/Tisziji Muñoz: Spiritual Drum Kingship (2022 [2023], Gotta Let It Out): Two drummers plus electric guitar. The latter is an American, born in Brooklyn, released an album on India Navigation in 1978, but didn't really produce much until the late 1990s, when he recorded albums with Moses, Pharoah Sanders, Dave Liebman, Marilyn Crispellm, and Rashied Ali. Moses is of similar age, not just a drummer but a student of percussion everywhere. Osgood is younger, from Denmark, started around 2002, starting with Sam Rivers, Oliver Lake, and other notables. Such a tour de force by the guitarist that it takes two very fast drummers to keep up, and these two make the album. A- [bc]

Chuck Owen and the WDR Big Band: Renderings (2019-21 [2023], MAMA): Arranger/conductor, composer of three (of eight) tracks here, teaches at University of South Florida, has seven previous albums since 1995 with his group, the Jazz Surge. German big band here, with a featured spot for Sara Caswell (violin). B+(***) [cd]

Susanne Sundfør: Blómi (2023, Bella Union): Norwegian singer-songwriter, sixth studio album since 2007. Dedicated to her theologian grandfather and to her daughter, title from Old Norse (to bloom), only partly in English. B+(*) [sp]

Tainy: Data (2023, Neon16): Puerto Rican reggaeton producer Marcos Efrain Masis Fernández, first album (other than a co-credit from 2006), nineteen tracks have co-credits including some fairly major ones (Bad Bunny, Julieta Venegas, Myke Towers, Skrillex). B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Abdul Wadud: By Myself: Solo Cello (1977 [2023], Gotta Groove): Cellist, originally Ronald DeVaughn (1947-2022), very little under his own name, but his duos with Julius Hemphill are well remembered. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Ember With Orrin Evans: No One Is Any One (2020 [2021], Sunnyside): Alto saxophonist Caleb Wheeler Curtis, formed this trio with Noah Garabedian (bass) and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), and caught the ear of the pianist, who joins in on the back stretch (four tracks, of ten), slowing things down. B+(**) [bc]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Adam Birnbaum: Preludes (Chelsea Music Festival) [10-10]
  • Itamar Borochov: Arba (Greenleaf Music) [09-09]
  • Christian Dillingham: Cascades (Greenleaf Music) [09-01]
  • Darrel Grant's MJ New: Our Mr. Jackson (Lair Hill) [10-06]
  • Chuck Owen and the WDR Big Band: Renderings (MAMA) [07-21]
  • Claudia Villela: Cartas Ao Vento (Taina Music) [09-08]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Speaking of Which

Trump's third indictment led off the week, so naturally he hogged the news. He complains about being singled out, as if he's the only president ever to get caught running a byzantine scam to reverse election results. If anything, he's the one getting special favors. Anyone else trying to incite violence against witnesses would at least get a gag order, or more likely be remanded to jail for the duration.

Top story threads:

Trump: He gets his own section again this week, because he got indicted again, and this time it's the big one, the case we've been waiting for. Well, not all of it, but stripped down to the most basic and unassailable points.

DeSantis, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Paul Krugman: [07-31] Goldilocks and the Bidenomics bears: "It's hard to overstate how good the U.S. economic news has been lately. It was so good that it didn't just raise hopes for the future; it led to widespread rethinking of the past." After noting Larry Summers' plea for "many years of very high unemployment," Krugman goes on to say: "And as I said, we've had an astonishing recovery in jobs and G.D.P., which puts the sluggish recovery of the 2010s to shame; indeed, it suggests that the failure to achieve quick recovery from the financial crisis was a huge economic tragedy." Then he wrote another column expanding on that: [08-01] Frying pans and fiscal policy. Looking at the first two charts there, the slow recovery from the 2008-09 recession up through 2016 can largely be explained by the Republican gospel of austerity, which they dropped as soon as Trump took office. But especially in 2009-10, when Democrats had Congressional majorities, Obama's "confidence men" deserve much of the blame (especially Summers, who like Geithner and Furman didn't get invites to return from Biden; the term was the title of Ron Suskind's 2011 book on Obama's economic team, due to their belief that the key to recovery was Obama projecting confidence about the recovery; at the time, Krugman ridiculed them for their belief in "the confidence fairy").

  • Eric Levitz: [08-04] America's economic outlook keeps getting better: "Productivity and real wages are rising."

  • Bill Scher: [08-04] Don't expect Biden to get credit for the economy anytime soon. Cites Clinton and Obama as Democratic presidents who saw sustained economic growth during their terms, but got so little credit for it that the voters replaced them with Republicans, leading to massive redistribution toward the rich, and major recessions. I have some theories about why things work out this way. One is that Democrats can be counted on to support measures to stimulate the economy -- as they did with legislation to help Bush in 2008 and Trump in 2020 -- while Republicans insist on austerity when Democrats are in charge, figuring that the president will be blamed for their own acts. Key here is that Republicans are much more adept at blaming Democrats for anything and everything, whereas Democrats prefer to frame their policies positively, and are eager to compromise them to receive the thin veneer of bipartisan support.

  • Emily Stewart: [08-01] Can Joe Biden convince Americans the economy is actually good? "Bidenomics, or the real story of a sort of made-up thing."

Law, order, and the courts:

Climate and Environment:

  • Kate Aronoff: [07-31] What Florida's corals look like after catastrophic bleaching: "What's alarming about this year's bleaching event is just how quickly the corals died."

  • Tom Engelhardt: [08-03] Extremely extreme: After a paragraph summarizing the shocking climate news from this summer, he segues into the self-appointed leader of the "Me-First" movement: Donald Trump. Sure, he did a lot of bad things as president, only a small fraction of which he's since been indicted for, but his sins of omission will be judged by history even more harshly, including four years of doing nothing (beyond his active obstruction) on climate change.

  • Georgina Rannard/Mark Poynting/Jana Tauschinski/Becky Dale: [08-04] Ocean heat record broken, with grim implications for the planet.

Ukraine War: Regarding the counteroffensive, Robert Wright writes in [08-04] Biden's Ukraine quagmire:

This week a widely followed Twitter account called War Mapper quantified the amount of terrain Ukrainian forces have retaken since the beginning of their counter-offensive two months ago. The net gain is a bit over 100 square miles. So the fraction of Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia has dropped from 17.54 percent to 17.49 percent.

This gain has come at massive cost: untold thousands of dead Ukrainians, untold thousands of maimed Ukrainians, and lots of destroyed weapons and armored vehicles.

At this rate of battlefield progress, it will be six decades before Ukraine has expelled Russian troops from all its territory -- the point before which, President Zelensky has said, peace talks are unthinkable. And at this rate of human loss, Ukraine will run out of soldiers long before then -- and long before Russia does.

In short: Recent trend lines point to a day when Ukraine is vulnerable to complete conquest by Russia. For that matter, the counter-offensive has already made Ukraine more vulnerable to a Russian breakthrough in the north, where Ukrainian defensive lines were thinned out for the sake of the offensive in the south. . . .

The resolve is admirable. But have things really come to this? We're throwing Ukrainian men into a meat grinder week after week in hopes that maybe Putin's regime will collapse, and maybe this will be good for Ukraine?

Emphasis in original. This last line is followed by reasons such a collapse may not be good for anyone. Another source points out that Russia has actually gained ground in the north, while the counteroffensive has been grinding away in the south. He also cites a series of tweets by a Tatarigami_UA. Of course, much of this argument depends not just on the amount of land gained but on the resources spent and other damages, and on how much depth both sides have for reinforcements. While the US and its allies can provide Ukraine with enough war matériel to fight indefinitely, Russia has a big long-term advantage in manpower it can commit to the fight. Russia also has two more big advantages: it can hit virtually all of Ukraine, where Ukraine can barely nick territory within prewar Russia (e.g., through recent drone attacks on Moscow, or most recently [08-04] Ukraine strikes Russian commercial port with drones for first time). And Russia has nuclear weapons, which aren't terribly useful in the war but should give one pause when hoping for any kind of militarily dictated victory.

Also, I haven't seen anyone really put this info together, but it looks to me like Ukraine is becoming much more cavalier at hitting Russian targets behind various "red lines": in Crimea, the Black Sea, and in Russia itself. Russia is responding with more purely punitive attacks (i.e., nowhere near the front, such as on Black Sea ports). Until recently, US aid was conditioned on Ukraine restraint, but that seems to be going by the wayside.

  • Blaise Malley: [08-04] Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine War 'peace talks' this weekend, but Russia not invited.

  • Roger Cohen: [08-06] Putin's Forever War: An extended portrait of a Russia isolated by sanctions and agitated and militated by a war footing that seems likely to extend without ends, if not plausibly forever. I suspect there is a fair amount of projection here. The US actually has been engaged in forever wars, boundless affairs first against communism then against terrorism (or whatever you call it). Russia has struggled with internal order, but had little interest in "a civilizational conflict" until the Americans pushed NATO up to its borders. On the other hand, once you define such a conflict, it's hard to resolve it. The US has failed twice, and seems to be even more clueless in its high stakes grappling with Russia and China.

  • Geoffrey Roberts: [08-02] The trouble with telling history as it happens: More a reaction to than a review of Serhii Polkhy's new book, The Russo-Ukrainian War: The Return of History, which no matter how expert or up-to-date ("early 2023") is quickly passed by events, and inevitably swayed by unproven propaganda. I've read Plokhy's The Gates of Europe: A history of Ukraine and found it useful, although I already had a pretty decent grounding when I wrote my 23 Theses.

Israel, again:

  • Izzeddin Araj: [08-01] Israel's judicial crisis is not surprising: "Israel's settler-colonial ideological mission not only impacts Palestinians but prevents the country from being a democracy for Jews as well."

  • Jonathan Guyer: [08-03] Biden wants to bring Israel and Saudi Arabia together. But why? "And who will actually get the most out of it? (Hint: Not Americans or Palestinians.)" I haven't thought much about this, but can note that both Fred Kaplan and Richard Silverstein are very critical. I see three obvious problems: one is that, especially in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has a history of armed aggression, not the sort of country you want to tie yourself to; I'm a bit less worried than Kaplan about Saudi Arabia tarnishing America's brand as a supporter of democracy, but autocratic states are by their very nature brittle, so while you may like the current leadership (God knows why), that could change any moment (cf. Iran); and as long as Israel dictates American foreign policy, we're stuck holding the bag for whatever commitments Israel makes (usually war tech, although I've also read that the Saudis want nuclear tech). The tricky part with all of these Abraham Accord deals is that they depend on Israel moderating its treatment of Palestinians to not embarrass their new partners, but Israel's domestic political dynamics are only becoming more violent and abusive, effectively sabotaging the deals.

  • Jonathan Kuttab: [08-03] Why the Israeli judicial protest movement is bound to fail: "The time has come for Israeli Jews and their supporters to answer whether they believe in human equality or will continue to insist on Jewish supremacy."

  • Jonathan Ofir:

    • [07-31] Israel expanded an apartheid law last week: "Israel broadened a racist law that allows communities to exclude non-Jews based on 'social and cultural cohesion.'" This is one of 65 laws in Adalah's Discriminatory Laws Database.

    • [08-05] Jewish supremacy won't end from within. BDS is still the only hope. It's increasingly hard to argue that sanctions can persuade countries to change their core policies -- more likely the isolation they enforce only makes the rulers more recalcitrant, and sometimes more belligerent -- but they are something one can do to register disapproval short of war, and they can be adopted by individuals and groups even short of persuading states to act. Can it work? I doubt it. Up to 2000, Israeli politicians at least made gestures -- often, we now know, in bad faith -- to maintain good will from the US and Europe. Thereafter, the US capitulated, giving Israel's right-wing a green light to do whatever they want, certain of blind, uncritical American support. A reversal of that policy, where the US joins the rest of the world in deploring Israeli human rights abuses, while working to ensure Israel's security by negotiating normal relations with Israel's supposed enemies (especially Iran and Syria), wouldn't necessarily have any impact on Israeli politics, but it's the only thing that might. Meanwhile, civilian efforts to support BDS is the only game in town.

  • Philip Weiss: [08-02] Israel advocates finally condemn skunkwater -- now that it's being used on Jews.

  • Jeff Wright: [07-30] Another North American church names Israeli apartheid: "The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has declared that 'many of the laws, policies and practices of the State of Israel meet the definition of apartheid as defined in international law.'" Although I'm about as lapsed as a person can be, I grew up in that church, and took it seriously enough that they awarded me a Boy Scout God & Country medal. They are evangelicals, but not Old Testament fundamentalists. On the other hand, their focus on the New Testament has led many members (like my grandfather) to focus on "Revelations," which is the gateway to "Christian Zionism." But they have always been fundamentally decent people, and in the end that seems to have won out.

Around the world:

Other stories:

Clay Risen: [08-05] Charles J. Ogletree Jr, 70, dies; at Harvard Law, a voice for equal justice.

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [08-04] Does Hunter Biden matter? "Republicans believe the president's son is at the center of the corruption scandal of the century. Democrats think Hunter is a non-issue and the worst allegations are mere conspiracy theory." This is pretty thorough, and cuts the Bidens less slack than I would, but I can't quarrel much with his conclusion: "I certainly think we have ample evidence that Hunter Biden is scummy and Joe Biden is dishonest." It still doesn't answer the question raised up top: "Should voters care, and how much?" If Democrats offered a clear alternative to the graft that Republicans seem to revel in, they should be able to overcome a few embarrassing slips. But while Obama campaigned against money in politics back in 2008, he made no effort once he got elected to change a system that happened to give him (if few Democrats) a big advantage. Biden also seems comfortable with moneyed interests, even though they're always accompanied by the smell of corruption. Still, corruption isn't the only issue voters have to weigh. There are many other issues, some much more important. Even if you believe the worst about the Bidens, you should think back on the 1991 Louisiana governor race, where voters were advised: Vote for the crook: It's important.

  • [08-02] Is the critique of consumerism dead? "Today's left seems less inclined to critique advertising, consumerism, and pop culture." Another piece tied into Barbie, which since I haven't seen yet I should reserve judgment on, but it's clearly not tied into Mattel's PR machine. Still, my first reaction is "boring," perhaps because that's all stuff I examined so critically in the 1970s I feel like I'm unlikely to come up with anything new. I will note that although related, those are three different things.

    Advertising is an industry which presents a view of products (and the world) that is distorted to further the ends of its sponsors -- mostly to make more money, although political advertising has darker goals). And by the way, advertising is not free speech. It is very expensive speech, sponsored by special interests but ultimately paid for by the people it targets. It is almost always intrusive and unwelcome.

    Consumerism is a political reaction to corporate malfeasance. It attempts to give consumers rights and recourse against advertising, and beyond that against malign products, whether by design or defect. As we are all consumers, this movement is potentially universal, but it tends to wax and wane as business practices become normalized. It's possible that Robinson is thinking of something slightly different, which doesn't have a good name. This is the idea that consuming is an essential occupation of everyday life, a panacea for all our needs and desires. That is, of course, an idea advertising is meant to stoke, and one we may be better off learning to live with at a level well short of an addiction or compulsion, but it's impossible to blot it out.

    Pop art is simply art that reflects and reacts to popular consumable objects. Growing up when and where I did, it always struck me as perfectly normal: even if eventually it seemed a bit shallow, that shallowness was as real as the world it represented. Robinson spends a lot of time on what a leftist should make of this, and ultimately doesn't reach much of a conclusion. Maybe because it's not a problem we need to solve.

  • [08-01] Climate denial may escalate into a total rupture with reality: If I were his editor, I'd be tempted to strike "may" from that title, although I can see that it leaves open reason for contemplation, even though the evidence is pretty conclusive. At this point, the really dogmatic denialists aren't even the fossil industry shills who have an obvious economic stake but others whose objections aren't based on any understanding of science or economics, and their evidence, well, isn't evidence at all.

  • [08-03] Nomi Prins explains the difference between the market and the economy: Interview with the former Goldman Sachs trader, turned journalist, whose intro omits her 2009 book It Takes a Pillage, which as I recall was the first to expose/explain how far the banking bailouts went beyond the $700 billion slush fund Congress appropriated. She talks about her new book: Permanent Distortion: How Financial Markets Abandoned the Real Economy Forever.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [08-01] Americans' trust in military hits 'malaise era' territory. This sounds like good news to me, although the numbers still have quite a ways to fall. So does the recruitment crisis. Now if only some politicians could see the wisdom of cutting back on war spending. The pressure for more remains intense:

Alissa Wilkinson: [08-04] Lessons from a Barbenheimer summer: The fad of releasing serious, thought-provoking movies appears to be over. (This week's most-hyped releases are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, and The Meg 2: The Trench. Beware the colons.) The two movies are still generating commentary, especially Oppenheimer.

  • William Hartung: [08-02] Oppenheimer and the birth of the nuclear-industrial complex.

  • Jeffrey St Clair: [08-04] Little Boy and Fat Man earrings: a nuclear parable: An excerpt from St Clair's book, Grand Theft Pentagon, following by a Roaming Charges, much of which (including digs at Pence, RFK Jr, and "slit their throats" DeSantis I'm tempted to quote. Here's a taste:

    • DeSantis reminds me of Phil Gramm, the TX politician who amassed millions from banks and oil companies and seemed to be the prohibitive favorite in '96 GOP primaries, but was soon exposed as just a mean SOB with no real political skills at all other than shaking down corps for PAC $$$.
    • When DeSantis' campaign ran low on money and he began firing staffers, he hired them to fill government-funded positions in Florida instead.
    • More than half ($5 million, in fact) of the funds in RFK, Jr's SuperPAC came from Timothy Mellon, scion of the Mellon banking fortune, who has denounced social spending as "slavery redux," donated $53 million to state of Texas border wall construction fund, and gifted $1.5 million toward the legal defense of Arizona's vicious anti-immigration law.

I can't call it a tweet, and certainly won't call it a truth, but after Trump deemed "really quite vicious" Nancy Pelosi's quip about him in court ("I saw a scared puppy"), he wasn't satisfied with just being the victim. He added: "She is a Wicked Witch whose husbands journey from hell starts and finishes with her. She is a sick & demented psycho who will someday live in HELL!" True gentleman he is. Salon, which never misses a tweet, covers this story here and here.

Another tweet, from Younis Tirawi, in Jenin: "Israeli occupation forces fired 300 bullets on a car with 3 Palestinian fighters inside. After they all were killed, they kept their bodies inside the car, pulled it and paraded with their bodies home to the occupation military camp near Dotan."

Also from Noga Tarnopolsky: "Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, convicted eight (8!) times of terrorism & hate crimes, says a medal of valor ought to be awarded to his Jewish Power activist Elisha Yered, a suspect in the murder of 19-year-old Palestinian Qosai Mi'tan."

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Monday, July 31, 2023

Music Week

July archive (final).

Music: Current count 40636 [40606] rated (+30), 14 [14] unrated (-0).

Seemed unlikely I would hit 30 albums this week, as I've started every day with something old (Fats Waller today), and often found myself uncertain what to play next. The two A- records this week were recommended by Brad Luen and Chris Monsen, having largely exhausted Phil Overeem's July 2 list. Only things that nudged me up to 30 were writing an extra-long Speaking of Which and, when my initial count was 29, an EP recommended by Harbinger Entity.

The reviews will have to speak for themselves. What follows is mostly rant, meant mostly just to clear my head, so no real reason for you not to jump to to the review section. End of the month, so the July archive is final (link above), but I'll post this before I wrap up the indexing.

I've been plagued by technical problems lately. My top problem today was getting a Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1300 scanner to work with my computer (a home-built running Xubuntu 22.04). The SANE supported devices list says it's supported (except for wi-fi, which I neither need nor want), but I've spent many hours trying to get it to work, wrote several letters, eventually called up Fujitsu. Bottom line seems to be: no way. Fortunately, I should be able to return it (assuming I can get the label printed and/or the QR code scanned, both of which are proving difficult). This appears to be a case not just of getting a proprietary driver in place but of much basic functionality embedded in applications programs.

The printer problem is due to the HP OfficeJet Pro 9010 I bought a year back, which is now refusing jobs sent from my computer. This is the worst purchase I ever made in my life, for lots of reasons, but in theory should work. I need to contact HP, and try to hold back my anger.

I still don't have the email problem fixed. I have a server, which my regular ISP (Cox) refuses to accept email from. I'm thinking about implementing a short-term workaround, but it's quite possible that the underlying problem is keeping other mail from being delivered. One effect of this is that I'm not getting any questions through my form. Also the mail lists are at least partly broken (at least I'm not seeing them). Another problem with the form is that the captcha package (securimage) is no longer supported, so I should probably find a replacement (or just punt).

Another distracting project here is that my Sony 5-CD changer is broken (and Sony is no longer making them). Most likely a bad belt, but getting to it has been arduous, and I'm still not there. (I've looked for professional repairs, but been turned off by the sticker shock, so I've been thrashing.) Given how little I use the upstairs system for, I'm wondering whether it might be better to just replace it with an iPod equivalent, assuming I can load up such a thing from my Linux computers. (If we ever get a new car, I may have to switch to something like that, replacing my well-stocked CD travel cases.) Any suggestions? Longer range, I'd still like to set up a network jukebox.

Also had a very annoying mouse problem (erratic response). I bought a replacement, but it had the same problem. Turns out the fix was to plug the wireless connector into the front USB port instead of the back one.

I also have the usual scads of house projects. Anything outside will have to wait until hell freezes over (minus a month or two, if we're lucky and have a decent autumn). Forecast is 107°F tomorrow, which would be the hottest so far this year (although no record).

End rant.

My friend Max Stewart is presenting a show of his photography (August 4, here in Wichita).

New records reviewed this week:

Aila Trio: Shaped by Sea Waves (2022 [2023], Edgetone): Swedish bassist Georgia Wartel Collins is the writer here, Aila an extra first name. She is based in Norway, second group album, with tenor saxophonist Karl-Hjalmar Nyberg and drummer Andreas Winther. B+(***) [sp]

Akmee: Sacrum Profanum (2022, Nakama): Norwegian quartet, second album: Erik Kimestad Pederson (trumpet), Kjetil Jerve (piano), Erlend Olderskog Albertsen (bass), and Andreas Wildhagen (drums), 3-2-2-1 pieces respectively. B+(**) [bc]

Aphex Twin: Blackbox Life Recorder 21f/In a Room7 F760 (2023, Warp, EP): Electronics producer Richard D James, born in Ireland, grew up in Cornwall, has been recording since 1985, has slowed down of late, with an album in 2014 and several EPs since. Four songs, 14:31. Nice beats, but not much more to it. B+(*) [sp]

Ingebrigt Haker Flaten & Paal Nilssen-Love: Guts & Skins (2022 [2023], PNL): Norwegian bassist and drummer, the rhythm section for Atomic, the Thing, School Days, Scorch Trio, and countless other groups over the last 20-30 years, headline for an explosive octet. Ragged at first, then they slow it down and regroup more impressively. B+(**) [sp]

Aldo Fosko Collective: This One Time (2023, Hitchtone): From Croatia, plays Rhodes piano and bass clarinet, sems to be his/their first album. Fairly large group, generates impressive swing, but Alba Nacinovich's vocals disrupt and/or confound. B+(**) [cd]

Gabriels: Angels & Queens (2023, Atlas Artists/Parlophone): Gospel-inspired soul trio from Los Angeles, Jacob Lusk the lead singer, with Ryan Hope and Ari Balouzian, follows up 2022's short Angels & Queens: Part I (7 tracks, 27:29), with a second part (6 more songs, 21:31), but folds the two parts together. (Adding to the confusion, Spotify has a Deluxe Edition, with a second disc's worth of live and other extras, which I've heard but I'm not factoring in.) B+(**) [sp]

Allan Harris: Live at Blue Llama Jazz Club (2023, Love Productions/Live at Blue Llama): Jazz singer, plays guitar, more than a dozen albums since 1994, writes some: four songs here, out of ten, the covers from "Sunny" to "Nature Boy." With piano, bass, drums, and spots for Irwin Hall (alto sax, flute). B+(**) [cd]

High Pulp: Days in the Desert (2023, Anti-): Los Angeles-based jazz collective, self-released album in 2018, this their second with Anti-. Core group is a sextet, no names I recognize, with guest spots, including one track each for James Brandon Lewis (tenor sax), Brandee Younger (harp), Jeff Parker and Kurt Rosenwinkel (guitar), Daedelus and Telemakus (electronics). B+(**) [sp]

Carly Rae Jepsen: The Loveliest Time (2023, Silent): Canadian pop star, seventh album, but this is the second of those compiled from extra scraps -- there are also remix albums of two others -- these from the sessions that gave us The Loneliest Time. B+(***) [sp]

Russ Johnson Quartet: Reveal (2022 [2023], Calligram): Trumpet player, based in Chicago after a couple decades in New York, albums since 2004, moving from left of mainstream to farther out. Quartet with Mark Feldman (violin), Ethan Phillon (bass), and Tim Daisy (drums). Starts off with a romp, but less striking when they slow down, by which I mostly mean the violin. B+(**) [cd] [08-04]

Sarathy Korwar: KAL (Real World) (2023, The Leaf Label): London-based drummer, born in US but grew up in India, where he learned tabla. Three studio albums, plus this live one, offered as a companion to his 2022 album Kalak. Mostly stripped down to rhythm here, some reminding me of DJ Shadow. B+(**) [sp]

Jessy Lanza: Love Hallucination (2023, Hyperdub): Electropop singer-songwriter, from Ontario, fourth album (or fifth if you include her DJ-Kicks). B+(*) [sp]

Large Unit: New Map (2021 [2022], PNL): Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love's avant big band, several albums since 2014, this particular iteration lists 15 musicians, with 3 brass (trumpet/trombone/tuba), 3 reeds, 2 basses, 3 drums/percussion, and scattered others (guitar, harp, accordion, electronics). Two long pieces, one shorter, tend to hold back their firepower for interesting ambiance. B+(**) [sp]

Large Unit: Clusterfuck (2021 [2022], PNL): A second album released the same day, same group, recorded during the same three-day stretch, with more three pieces (48:52). A little more thrash, perhaps to justify the title. B+(**) [sp]

The Lemon Twigs: Everything Harmony (2023, Captured Tracks): Soft rock band from Long Island -- seems more accurate than Wikipedia's other genres (indie pop, or various rocks: indie, pop, power, glam, art, baroque). So soft it is. Also rather glum: "every day is the worst day of my life." C+ [sp]

Mahalia: IRL (2023, Atlantic): British neo-soul singer, last name Burkmar, second album after a compilation of earlier singles and EPs. B+(***) [sp]

Rita Ora: You & I (2023, BMG): Pop singer, born in Kosovo, moved to England when she was a baby, parents added Ora to their original surname (Sahatçiu). Third album since 2012. B+(**) [sp]

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol & Whatsnext?: Turkish Hipster (2023, Dunya): Turkish composer, born in Istanbul of parents from Cyprus, studied at Berklee and remains in Boston. Fourth album, his group named after his 2013 debut. Title is apt enough, but the widely scattered styles, ranging from trad to hip-hop to symphonic (I'll have to take his word for "psychedelic") cancel each other out. B [cd]

Skrillex: Quest for Fire (2023, OWSLA/Atlantic): Electronica producer Sonny Moore, debut was a 2009 EP, and that's been his main vehicle, with only one studio album (2014) before two this year. B+(*) [sp]

Skrillex: Don't Get Too Close (2023, OWSLA/Atlantic): Third album, released a day after his second. Tools are the same, but this seems more substantial as song -- not that I'm quick enough to be sure of what they're worth. B+(**) [sp]

Dudu Tassa/Jonny Greenwood: Jarak Qaribak (2023, World Circuit): Israeli (Mizrahi) musician, leads the group Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis, which play songs based on Iraqi classics, including songs by Tassa's grandfather and great-uncle Daoud and Salih Al-Kuwaity. The group opened for Radiohead in 2017, leading to this collaboration. Sounds Arabic to my ears. B+(*) [sp]

Felo Le Tee/Mellow & Sleazy: The III Wise Men (2023, New Money Gang): South African amapiano trio, affiliated somehow with DJ Maphorisa (Themba Sonnyboy Sekowe), although the producer names that appear here areTshelofelo Mokhine, Phemelo Sefanyetse, and Olebogeng Kwanaite (plus Mlotlasi Phoshoko on one track). Beats are inscrutable enough they take quite a while to settle in, and will be hard to distinguish from future efforts. But pretty good for now. A- [sp]

Sam Weinberg Trio With Chris Lightcap & Tom Rainey: Implicatures (2022 [2023], Astral Spirits): Tenor saxophonist, has appeared on a number of albums since 2016, not someone I've recognized so far, but his bassist and drummer are prominent enough they got their names on the cover. They help a lot, but Weinberg himself gives a clinic on what free jazz sax needs to sound like to keep your attention throughout. A- [bc]

YMA & Jadsa: Zelena (2023, self-released, EP): Brazilian artists, very little info I can find on either (Jadsa's surname is Castro, and comes from Salvador). Six songs, 18:38. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Nina Simone: You've Got to Learn (1966 [2023], Verve): Piano-playing jazz singer-songwriter, with a previously unreleased seven track, 32:56 live set from Newport Jazz Festival. Backed by guitar (Rudy Stevenson), bass ( Lisle Atkinson), and drums (Bobby Hamilton). B+(*) [sp]

Old music:

Aila Trio: Aila Trio (2018, Hoo-Ha): Trio led by Swedish bassist-composer Georgia Wartel Collins, with Karl Hjalmar Nyberg (tenor sax/clarinet) and Andreas Skår Winther (drums). Nice sax tone. Nice bass solos, too. B+(**) [sp]

High Pulp: Pursuit of Ends (2022, Anti-): Jazz collective, came together in Seattle, self-released an album in 2018, then sold this one to a rock label. Simplifying the credits a bit: Bobby Granfelt (drums), Rob Homan (keyboards), Antoine Martel (guitars), Andrew Morrill (alto sax), Victory Nguyen (tenor/soprano sax, flute, trumpet), and Scott Rixon (bass & guitar), with a couple guests (Theo Croker, Jacob Mann, Jaleel Shaw, Brandee Younger) featured on one track each, and a few spare parts. B+(*) [sp]

Roots of Rock (1927-37 [1979], Yazoo): Actually just a country blues sampler, from a label which did yeoman work rescuing classic recordings, cleaning up the sound, organizing them into LPs, and later reissuing them on CD without trying to cram more into them (this one came out in 1991). These songs run early -- only Blind Blake came later than 1931. The title/cover concept is ridiculous: rock mostly came out of later jump blues, thematically shifted for the emerging teen market. But many (all?) of these songs got revisited in the 1960s, and recognizing their sources opened a few eyes. B+(***) [sp]

Co Streiff-Russ Johnson Quartet: In Circles (2011, Intakt): Dutch saxophonist (alto/soprano), wrote four pieces to the three by the American trumpet player, the Quartet rounded out with Christian Weber (bass) and Julian Sartorius (drums). B+(*) [r]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Aline's Etoile Magique: Eclipse (Elastic) [08-25]
  • Kris Davis Diatom Ribbons: Live at the Village Vanguard (Pyroclastic, 2CD) [09-01]
  • Ember: August in March (Imani) [08-11]
  • Pascal Le Boeuf: Ritual Being (SoundSpore) [08-25]
  • James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: For Mahalia, With Love (Tao Forms, 2CD) [09-08]
  • Doug Richards Orchestra: Through a Sonic Prism: The Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim (self-released) [09-08]
  • Todd Sickafoose: Bear Proof (Secret Hatch) [09-29]
  • SLUGish Ensemble: In Solitude (Slow & Steady) [09-15]

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