Saturday, June 30, 2018
Streamnotes (June 2018)
Pick up text here.
Noticed this Maura Johnston tweet of "top whatever albums of the
first half of the year" (my grades in brackets, just keeping score):
- Jenny Wilson: Exorcism 
- Tracey Thorn: Record [**]
- Daphne & Celeste Save the World [B]
- The Breeders: All Nerve [*]
- Star Season 2 OST 
- Lucy Dacus: Historian [*]
- Drinks: Hippo Lite 
- Wye Oak: The Louder I Call the Faster It Runs 
- Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet: Landfall [A-]
- Ashley Monroe: Sparrow [B-]
- Meshell Ndegeocello: Ventriloquism [*]
- Natalie Prass: The Future and the Past 
- Mary Lattimore: Hundreds of Days 
- Shopping: The Official Body [A-]
- Starchild & the New Romantic: Language 
- Flasher: Constant Image 
- Lily Allen: No Shame [A-]
- Chris Dave and the Drumhedz [B]
- Chloe x Halle: The Kids Are Alright [**]
- Panic! at the Disco: Pray for the Wicked 
- Dream Wife [***]
- Theo & the Wild: Ikaros 
- Screaming Females: All at Once 
- Mock Identity: Paradise 
- Sloan: 12 
- Neko Case: Hell On 
- Khadja Bonet: Childqueen 
Monday, June 25, 2018
Music: current count 29859  rated (+20), 348  unrated (-1).
I expected many distractions last week to depress this week's rated
count. Indeed, I didn't manage to play any new music until Friday, when
my nephew flew out after nine days of photographing my late sister's
art. We did a big mixed grill bash on Thursday to wrap things up --
chicken wings; kebabs of lamb, pork, and swordfish; quail, squid,
thin-sliced steak, with a range of marinades from Turkey, Iran, China,
and Korea. Added a sweet potato platter, horiatiki salad, soft shell
crabs, and grilled Japanese eggplant with spicy peanut sauce. Date
pudding for dessert. Only thing there I had never done before was
the pork, but I found some fresh ham, cut it into cubes, and mixed
up a hoisin/bean sauce. Very tasty. Should be memorable. We gave most
of the excess away, but I kept the lamb and made Turkish yogurtlu
kebap with the leftovers.
Friday I started working on the intro to yesterday's
Weekend Roundup. After finding the latest Satoki Fujii in the
queue, I turned to my
tracking file looking for jazz
I could find on Napster, figuring I would have trouble mustering
the requisite attention for sorting out new pop records but I could
multitask new jazz easily enough. Wound up playing a lot of records
(some old) on the Danish SteepleChase label, and they all went pretty
fast (although the new Pierre Dørge merited a couple of extra spins).
Moved on to Clean Feed, and I'm still working there.
Meanwhile, my website/system recovery work has slowed down. I
probably have about half of the
working at this stage. I did manage to implement a new feature but
it hasn't been announced yet: something similar to the
Ask Greil thing,
where you can ask questions and Bob can answer (if he deigns them
worthy of an answer, or maybe just if he thinks his answer would be
worthwhile). I suppose I could consider offering something similar
here, if there's any interest. I've long suspected I would be more
productive on demand-driven projects (or in collaborations where
I'd feel more compelled to keep up my end).
I'm still not doing complete updates of any of my websites. I'm
not aware of a lot of unfixed problems with this one, but need to
get some testing in before I feel confident to update. Nor have I
extracted and tested my old disk drives. One thing I did want to do
was to replace my cheap keyboard here with a fancy mechanical one.
To that end I bought a Corsair Strafe, only to find out it doesn't
work at all with my computer. So back to the drawing board on that.
Month runs out on Saturday, so I should post Streamnotes no later
than then. Draft file currently runs to 99 records (100 counting the
new Lily Allen, which I'm not done with yet), of which 72 are new (65
new music, 7 compilations). Despite the shortfalls the last two weeks,
should wind up as a pretty average month. Also, despite scant A-list
records the last two weeks, should wind up pretty solid in that regard
New records rated this week:
- JD Allen: Love Stone (2018, Savant): [r]: B+(**)
- Angles 3: Parede (2016 , Clean Feed): [r]: A-
- Craig Brann: Lineage (2017 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Ronnie Cuber: Ronnie's Trio (2017 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
- Olegario Diaz: I Remember Chet (2017 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- Pierre Dørge: Soundscapes (2017 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- Marty Ehrlich: Trio Exaltation (2017 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
- Honest John w/ Ab Baars: Treem (2016 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
- Joe Magnarelli: Magic Trick (2017 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Jason Palmer: At Wally's: Volume 1 (2016 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
- Jason Palmer: At Wally's: Volume 2 (2016 , SteepleChase): [r]: B
- This Is It! [Satoko Fujii]: 1538 (2018, Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
- Rafael Toral/Hugo Antunes/João Pais Filipe/Ricardo Webbens: Space Quartet (2017 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Lee Konitz: Prisma: By Guenter Buhles (2000 , QFTF): [r]: B
Old music rated this week:
- Pierre Dørge Quartet: Ballad Round the Left Corner (1979 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Pierre Dørge/Harry Beckett/Marilyn Mazur/Klavs Hovman: Echoes Of . . . (1990, Olufsen): [r]: B+(**)
- Pierre Dørge & New Jungle Orchestra: Zim Zag Zinfoni (2000 , Stunt): [r]: B+(**)
- Pierre Dørge: Blui (2014 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- John Tchicai & Pierre Dørge: Ball at Louisiana (1981 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Aaron Shragge & Ben Monder: The World of Dew (Human Resource)
- Verve Jazz Ensemble: Connect the Dots (Lightgroove Media): July 20
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Sometime last week I got the feeling that the Trump administration
has entered a new phase or level. From the start, they said and often
did bad things, but they came off as confused, stupid, and/or evil,
and they weren't very good at following through, so most people didn't
feel any real change. The administration seemed to be collapsing into
chaos, while a highly motivated resistance was scoring political
points even when they fell short of disrupting Trump's agenda. It's
still possible to look at last week that way, especially as public
outrage forced Trump to make a tactical retreat from his policy of
breaking up and jailing refugee families at the border.
Nonetheless, as I've watched clips of Trump and read stories of his
cronies this week, I've started to see a potentially compelling story
coming together. And as I've watched the late-night anti-Trump comics
fumble and flail in their attempts to skewer the news, I'm reminded of
that line about how the Democrats managed to misunderestimate Bush on
his way to a second term. For me, the clearest example was how the big
three (Colbert, Kimmel, Meyers) all jumped on a Trump line where he
bragged about eliminating more regulations within 500 days than any
previous president -- regardless of how many years they served ("4,
or 8, or in one case 16 years"). All three pounced on "16 years" as
the big lie, pointing out that while Franklin Roosevelt was elected
to four four-year terms, he died a couple months into his fourth, so
actually only served 12 years. If I didn't know better, I'd suspect
Trump tossed that in just to throw them off the scent.
The real problem -- the things that critics need to focus on -- is
the claim of eliminating a record number of regulations in whatever
time frame you want to use: Trump's "500 days," a whole term, full
tenure, etc. I have no way of checking -- it's not like anyone's been
keeping records on this -- but Trump's claim is at least plausible.
I suppose you might nominate Harry Truman, who ended rationing, wage
and price controls, and many other regulations after WWII ended, but
none of those were ever intended to last beyond wartime. But much of
"deregulation" during Truman's first term was done by Congress, most
extensively after Republicans won Congress in 1946, in some cases
passing laws (like Taft-Hartley) over Truman's veto. Carter and Reagan
did some deregulating, but mostly through Congress. Congress has helped
Trump out a little, but nearly all of his "deregulation" has been done
by executive order and/or through the discretionary acts of his political
Trump's boast assumes that cutting regulations is always a good thing,
but that isn't necessarily the case. Each regulation needs to be reviewed
on its own merits. Often they need to be revised, curtailed, or expanded,
based on how effective (including cost-effective) they are at achieving
stated goals. But it must be understood that some degree of regulation is
necessary to protect the public from unscrupulous and/or simply sloppy
operators -- especially businesses, which always feel pressure to cut
corners. Trump's own motivations are twofold: first, he seems hell bent
on obliterating everything Obama signed his name to; second, he's eager
to shower favors on any business/lobbyist he or his cronies deem to be
in their corner. In short, Trump's deregulation boast is a perfect storm
of vanity, ego, ideological extremism, and graft. There's no shortage
of things to criticize there. Nitpicking over when FDR died misses it
The thing is, unless you start tearing apart the vanity and corruption
of Trump's "deregulation" record -- I'm tempted to put it into quotes
because it's not just eliminating regulations, it also involves changing
them to favor private over public interests, or to signal what will and
will not be enforced -- will congeal into a positive story that lots of
people will find attractive. (After all, few things are less favorably
viewed than government red tape -- salmonella, for instance, or airplane
crashes and oil spills.) Trump's trade moves and tariffs are another case.
Democrats haven't figured out a workable counter to Trump's emerging story
here, and if no one really seems to understand the issues, Trump's likely
to score a political coup hurling a simple "fuck you" at China and Canada.
Lots of Americans will eat that up.
Meanwhile, the economy is not significantly worse for most people,
and is downright peachy for the very rich. It looks like Trump has
scored some sort of win against ISIS, and maybe a diplomatic break
with North Korea, and none of the other wars he's left on autopilot
have blown up in his face yet (although the Saudis seem to be making
a real mess of Yemen). And Congress has passed a few truly odious
bills recently, including serious damage to Dodd-Frank and a farm
bill with major cuts to SNAP. Six months ago one could point out how
little Trump has actually accomplished, but it's beginning to look
like quite a lot -- nearly all bad, but who exactly notices?
I'm not even sure Trump's losing on immigration. Sure, he's had a
bad week with the family separation/incarceration fiasco, but even
after his retreat, he's still got the incarceration part working: so
the net result is that refugee-immigrants will be detained in places
that look less like jails and more like concentration camps? He had
a similar bad week when he ended DACA, and while he seemed to wobble
for a while, he's emerged more hardcore than ever. If Democrats get
stuck with the impression that they're more concerned with immigrants
than with native-born American citizens, that's bound to hurt.
Nor do I have any hope that Mueller's going to come up with anything
that changes the game. Sure, he's got Russian hackers, but he hasn't
come up with any interaction between Trump's hackers and Russians,
which is where collusion might amount to something. The higher-level
meetings are mostly between idiot-functionaries -- lying for them is
habitual, so catching them hardly matters. Then there is the corruption
around the fringes -- Flynn, Manafort, Cohen -- which will give Mueller
some scalps, but change nothing. As long as Mueller stays within the
parameters of Russia and the 2016 election, there's not enough there,
and Trump can keep his followers in tow with his "witch hunt" whines.
The Democrats have to move beyond those parameters, which for starters
means they have to realize that Russia's favoring Trump reflects the
same interests and analysis as other corrupt and authoritarian regimes
(notably Saudi Arabia and Israel), and that Trump's courting of crooks
abroad is just a subset of his service to America's own moguls (not
One effect of this unique confluence of paranoia, fanaticism, and
buckraking is that the hopes some had that sensible Republicans would
turn on Trump have been shattered. The first clue, I suppose, was when
Senators Flake and Cocker decided not to risk facing Trump candidates
in their primaries. Then there was Ryan's decision to quit the House.
Since then the tide in Trump's direction, at least within increasingly
embattled Republican ranks, has only strengthened. As long as Trump
seems to be getting away with his act, there's little they can do but
protect and cling to him.
The highlight of Trump's week was his rally in Duluth, where he
said a bunch of stupid things but seemed to be glowing, basking in
the adulation of his crowd. A big part of his speech was a pitch to
get more Republicans elected in 2018, so unlike Obama in 2010, he's
going to try to turn the election into a referendum on himself --
instead of passively letting the other party run roughshod. I'm not
sure it will work -- an awful lot of Americans still can't stand
anything about the guy -- but he's showing a lot more confidence
than just a few months ago.
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: The 4 most important stories of the week, explained:
Outrage boiled over at family separations; Trump got ready for a legal
battle (again, over family separations under Trump's "zero tolerance"
anti-immigrant policy); House Republicans spun their wheels on immigration
(losing the vote on a "hard-line" bill, and offering a "compromise" bill
that has zero Democratic support); There were more Cabinet scandals
(Wilbur Ross, yet another Scott Pruitt).
Other Yglesias pieces:
The pernicious myth of "open borders".
The border crisis is a reminder that Trump has no idea what he's
Trump's response to the crisis at the US-Mexico border -- where toddlers
are in internment camps and older kids are in tent cities at frightening
expense while children sob, health deteriorates, and the long-term damage
of toxic stress accumulates -- reminds us that he does not know anything
about public policy, diplomacy, constitutional law, or legislative
So you get instead what he's delivered over the past two weeks --
aggressive hostage-taking, lying, trolling, chaos, dissembling, and
cruelty -- none of which is going to advance Trump's legislative goals
or address the underlying issue of the northward flow of asylum seekers.
Even the executive order he signed on Wednesday raises more questions
than it will probably solve.
Yglesias stresses that the immediate causes of the recent flood of
asylum seekers are the regimes in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador,
but he (much less Trump) doesn't have any proposals to deal with the
problem (if that's what it is) at its root. Trump might, for instance,
offer some carrots and/or sticks to those countries to cut down on the
violence there. Also, to provide some incentives for Mexico and other
Latin American countries to absorb more of the refugees. Of course, if
we actually had an administration capable of self-reflection, one might
examine the long history of American policies that have led to violence
in Latin America, and work on changing that.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is tied up in major financial conflicts
Trump changed the electoral map; new polling shows it's changing
back: In particular, the map based on Trump's current disapproval
numbers has tilted back against him from Pennsylvania all the way to
Iowa. However, Trump's lost little (if any) support in the south, most
notably in Florida.
Donald Trump's cruel immigration politics is a scam:
Trump knows how to deliver concrete wins to interest groups he cares about,
letting insurance companies discriminating against people with preexisting
letting financial advisers deliberately give clients bad advice,
letting chemical companies poison children's brains, or
delivering tax cuts that push bank profits to record levels.
By contrast, nothing he's doing on immigration is actually going to help
anyone with anything. He has no answer to the surge of asylum seekers, is
implementing policies that will worsen crime, and is seeking broad policy
changes that will lower wages and incomes for native-born Americans. And
of course, there's absolutely nothing in Trump's career to suggest that he
has any aptitude for or interest in genuine problem-solving. He's a brand
marketer and a flimflam man who
had to make a $21 million civil fraud payout about his fake university
shortly before taking office and is now
facing a new fraud lawsuit over his fake charity.
The cruelty, too, is essentially a fraudulent branding exercise meant
to make people who resent immigrants think that he cares about them.
Immigrant kids will pay the highest price of all for the deception, but
the reality is that nobody is going to gain except for Trump himself.
Trump just tweeted that "crime in Germany is way up." It's actually at
its lowest level since 1992.
Donald Trump's extremely shady charitable foundation, explained.
There's actually lots of evidence of Trump-Russia collusion.
Umair Irfan: Deepwater Horizon led to new protections for US waters.
Trump just repealed them.
The Interior Department is also presiding over the largest rollback of
federal land protections in US history, opening up public lands to fossil
fuel extraction and mineral mining. Plus, Secretary Zinke opened up nearly
all coastal waters to drilling last year and started the process for the
largest offshore lease sale ever.
Rebecca Jennings: Melania Trump wears "I really don't care, do u?" jacket
on trip to migrant children: Some truly trivial trivia, in lieu of a
story that probably doesn't make any sense anyway.
German Lopez: Canada just legalized marijuana. That has big implications
for US drug policy.
Libby Nelson: Donald Trump's plan to (sort of) eliminate the Department of
Education, briefly explained:
The Trump administration wants to combine the standalone Education and
Labor Departments into a new Cabinet-level agency: the Department of
Education and the Workforce.
The proposal is part of the administration's broader plan to reorganize
the federal government, released Thursday. Overall, the plan would eliminate
and combine government programs and give private industry a bigger role,
including in the US Postal Service. It would also rename the Department of
Health and Human Services to the Department of Public Welfare (and give it
jurisdiction over food stamps), among nearly 30 other changes to how the
federal government operates.
"This effort, along with the recent executive orders on federal unions,
are the biggest pieces so far of our plan to drain the swamp," said Office
of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney in a statement touting the
My first reaction to the name changes is that they're designed to make
the departments more vulnerable to right-wing attacks, specifically as a
step in the Grover Norquist process of "shrinking the federal government
to where you can drown it in a bathtub." I'm not opposed to Public Welfare.
In fact, I think the government should be doing much more to increase it
and to distribute its blessings more equitably, but you can pretty much
predict what the right-wing propaganda mills will be spewing out. Even
more pernicious is the semantic shift from Labor to Workforce. The former
are people -- specifically, the people who do all the actual work producing
goods and services in the economy -- but the latter is little more than a
view of a cost factor from business management.
Mulvaney's "drain the swamp" comment also took me aback. My guess is
that when the American people heard Trump vow to "drain the swamp in
Washington," 99% of them figured that he was talking about the pervasive
and pernicious effect of money in Washington, especially as routed through
lobbyists, into campaign coffers, and for greasing the revolving door
between government agencies and private interests. I know that's what
I thought, and I'm usually pretty good at deciphering Trumpian bullshit.
That 99% has, of course, been frustrated since Trump took office, and
turned his administration into a vast bazaar of corporate favoritism.
But now Mulvaney is saying that the den of corruption that has flourished
in Washington for decades (and to a lesser extent ever since Washington
was founded in the late 1790s) isn't "the swamp" at all. It turns out
that his definition of "the swamp" is simply that part of the federal
government that does things to help people who aren't already
filthy rich. Who could have known that?
Ella Nilsen: Michael Bloomberg is going all in on Democratic House
2018: The billionaire former and former Republican mayor of New York
City is pledging to spend $80 million on the 2018 elections, mostly for
Democrats (although I doubt you'll find many Bernie Sanders supporters
on his shopping list). I've often wondered in the past whether there
aren't wealthy swing voters who actually favored divided government --
one party controlling Congress and the other the Presidency -- because
that keeps either party from upsetting the cart while still allowing
compromises in favor of the one group both parties esteem: the rich
(well, also the military). Bloomberg's a concrete example of this
hypothetical niche. Indeed, it seems likely that Democrats will raise
a lot of money this cycle (although note that Sheldon Adelson has
already given $30 million to the Republicans, and the Kochs talk
about much more).
David Roberts: Energy lobbyists have a new PAC to push for a carbon tax.
Wait, what? Excellent piece, covering both the proposal and the
political calculations behind it. For 20-30 years now, there have been
two basic markets-oriented approaches to reducing carbon dioxide and
therefore global warming: "cap and trade" (which by creating a market
for pollution credits incentivizes companies -- mostly power plants --
to transition to non-carbon sources), and a "carbon tax" (which adds
to the cost of coal, oil, and gas, making renewables and non-carbon
sources like nuclear relatively more affordable). The Democrats tried
pushing "cap and trade" through Congress in 2009-10, hoping that as a
sop to "free market" ideology -- the idea originated in right-wing
"thank tanks" -- they'd pick up some Republican support, but they
didn't. At the time, companies like Exxon-Mobil decided that they'd
rather have a carbon tax than cap-and-trade, but they could just as
well have gone the other way had that helped defeat the proposal in
play. Indeed, while Trent Lott and John Breaux are petro-lobbyists,
there's little reason to think Exxon et al. are any more serious
about this flier than they were a decade ago. (As I recall, Clinton
proposed a carbon tax back in the 1990s, but Exxon sure didn't
support it then.)
This policy is not bipartisan in any meaningful sense, it is not likely
to be political popular, it's not all that great as policy to being with,
and it is naive to see it as a gambit that arises primarily, or even
tangentially, from environmental concerns. It is first and foremost a
bid by oil and gas and nuclear to secure the gentlest and most predictable
possible energy transition.
More broadly, it is the US Climate Action Partnership all over again.
That was the effort, starting around 2006, to develop a climate bill that
big, polluting industries would support. The idea was that support from
such companies, combined with support from establishment green groups,
would lend the effort credibility and political momentum. Instead, it
yielded a compromised bill that no one loved, which died a lonely death
in the Senate in 2010.
Roberts' subheds give you an idea of the piece's points:
- This is oil, gas, and nuclear making their opening bid on climate
- The oil and gas industry is trying to get ahead of the climate
- This proposal is aimed at Democrats, not Republicans
- This proposal is "bipartisan" in that it lacks support from
- There's no reason to think tax-and-dividend is the most popular
- It's time to quit pre-capitulating to garbage policy
One interesting twist here is that the carbon tax receipts never
hit the federal budget. They go straight back to the people in the
form of "per-capita carbon dividends." This is presumably meant as
a concession to Republicans with their "no tax increase" pledges --
but, as Roberts notes, every Republican in Congress has also signed
a "no carbon tax" pledge. Still, this does offer the prospect of a
small but non-trivial universal basic income ("the group estimates
will start around $2,000 a year for a family of four'), which makes
it one form of income redistribution (one relatively palatable to
Republicans, not that they would support it). On the other hand,
after 30-40 years of increasing austerity, the things Democrats
desire most demand increasing tax revenues, not neutral.
Sam Rosenfeld: The Democratic Party is moving steadily leftward. So why
does the left still distrust it? Not really a hard one to answer:
the party bureaus are still dominated by people installed by the Clintons
and Obama, their main focus is to raise money, and the people who bankroll
them are rich, probably liberal on social issues, mostly moderate on the
maintaining a viable safety net, but still concerned to protect and advance
their business interests. What distinguished Clinton and Obama above other
Democrats was their ability to raise money. And while both ran campaigns
that promised to benefit their voters, as soon as they got elected, they
started to back pedal and prioritize the interests of their donors. Even
worse, on winning they put their personal interests way above those of the
party. Both lost Democratic control of Congress after two years, further
undermining their credibility with their voters. Moreover, Deamocratic
leaders and pundits repeatedly made concessions to seek common ground
with Republicans, undermining their own voter interests and legitimizing
an increasingly extreme reactionary agenda. Their collusion, both with
their donors and with their sworn enemies, has resulted in (among many
other maladies): a vast series of perpetual wars that only serve to make
the world more violent and resentful; an extreme increase in inequality
to levels never before seen in US history; a drastic loss of rights and
power for workers; an austerity program which has made education and
health care almost prohibitively expensive while public infrastructure
has decayed to a dangerous extent; general degradation of environmental
protections, along with widespread denial of increasingly obvious climate
change; and a systemic effort to undermine democracy at all levels. Sure,
much of this can fairly be blamed on Republicans and their propaganda
organs, but when, say, Hillary Clinton spends much more time schmoozing
with donors than trying to rally voters, how surprised should we be when
marginal voters decide that she's more problem than solution?
Of course, this isn't something Rosenfeld wants to dwell on. He wants
to commit "left-liberal activism" to working within the Democratic Party,
stressing that activists can move the party to the left, even offering
a few historical examples (actually, pretty uninspiring ones, even without
trotting out the biggies, when establishment Democrats actively sabotaged
the nominations of William Jennings Bryan and George McGovern). Still, I
agree with his conclusion: the Democratic Party is the only viable forum
within which to organize reversal of forty years of loss to conservatives
and to get back on a progressive track, one that is sorely needed given
the numerous ailments we currently face. But I would stress that that's
not because recent Democratic leaders are trustworthy but because most
of the people we want and need to convince have already aligned with the
Democrats -- many, of course, in reaction to being maligned and hounded
by the increasingly racist, reactionary, and aristocratic Republicans.
Given this alternative, I think there should be some sort of compact
between Democratic factions to support whoever gets nominated. In this,
I'm reminded that even as dogmatic a conservative as Ronald Reagan used to
talk about an "11th commandment: never speak ill of a fellow Republican."
Of course, that was at a time when Republicans were a minority, when the
option of running liberals like Jacob Javits and Mark Hatfield gave them
a chance to pick up seats real Reaganites didn't have a chance at. Of
course, those days are long gone now, with hardcore conservatives chasing
even devout Reaganites like Jeff Flake out of primaries.
Reagan's "11th commandment" didn't stop conservatives from advancing
their ideas and initiatives, but it gave Reagan an air of moderation and
sanity (unmerited, I should add), which made him acceptable to many people
who recoiled against Barry Goldwater. Actually, hardcore conservatism has
never won nationally: it snuck in shrouded in Reagan's sunny optimism;
the Bushes ran moderate campaigns only to turn the reins over to Dick
Cheney; and while Trump traded in rage vs. optimism, the far-right has
only seized power on his coattails.
While I believe as a matter of principle that the left should have
more popular appeal than the right, I doubt that the left will ever
dominate and control the Democratic Party, and while I wouldn't say
that's for the best, I will say that doesn't bother me. The Party, as
Rosenfeld is aware, always has had to balance competing interests,
dividing between idealists and pragmatists (often just opportunists).
It matters that they take care of business -- just not at the expense
of everyone else and democracy itself. But the party sorely needs its
left nowadays, mostly because it needs to regain its bearings as "the
party of the people" (as Thomas Frank put it, using the past tense).
The problem is that many establishment Democrats seem to hate the left
more than they hate the right. The roots of this date back to the start
of the Cold War, when liberals led the purge of the left ("communists
and fellow travelers") from labor unions and the party. They made such
a big show of their anti-communism that they blundered into wars in
Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan, with many remaining cheerleaders for
the Bush oil wars in the Middle East. Indeed, while most Democrats
opposed the 1990 and 2003 wars against Iraq, the party's leaders have
almost exclusively come from Bush supporters. (The popular exception,
Barack Obama, went on to make his own contributions to the Bush war
legacy.) Similarly, Democratic "leaders" have a long history of support
for privatization schemes, deregulation, and globalization, which along
with slack taxes on the rich have greatly exacerbated inequality and
the many problems it entails. Even the Democrats one signature social
welfare program of the last twenty years, the ACA with its partial and
inadequate nod towards universal health care, was designed as a giant
subsidy to the insurance industry. For decades now "new Democrats"
have been lecturing us on how we can't afford to do anything better,
and their failure to deliver anything better, while looking schetchy
and corrupt in the bargain, has destroyed their credibility. The left
in America consists of people who care, are sincere and honest, and
most of whom are directly affected by real problems and have real
stakes in their solution. So, yeah, the left needs the Democrats to
get things done, but the Democrats need the left even more to get
back into the fight.
Charles Silver/David A Hyman: Here's a plan to fight high drug prices
that could unite libertarians and socialists: "First, attack monopolies.
Second, replace patents with prizes." I don't mind the prize idea, but
would put more stress on public funding of "open source" pharmaceutical
research, and would pursue international treaties to ensure that other
countries made comparable research grants, with the understanding that
all research would be funded. I'd also consider public funding of
development efforts in exchange for price guarantees, again attempting
to leverage production worldwide (with reasonable regulatory standards
to ensure quality). Same thing can be done with medical devices and
Tara Golshan/Dylan Scott: Why House Republicans' immigration debate is
a shitshow, explained by a Republican lawmaker: But not explained
very well. I doubt, for instance, that the real problem is that Trump
doesn't know what he wants. I think he pretty clearly wants a lot of
shit he can't even get his Republican House majority to give him, let
alone clear the filibuster bar in the Senate. Moreover, any effort to
compromise in the hope of gaining "moderate" votes automatically lops
off "extremist" votes, as well as weakening Trump's own support. Nor
is Trump willing to cut a deal with the Democrats that would undercut
his own extreme anti-immigrant stance, even on very limited issues
like DACA where public opinion is against him. But also, there's very
little incentive for Trump to ever give in on any of this. He runs on
rage and anger, and the more Washington frustrates him, the more rage
he can cultivate from his base. That's what brought him to the White
House in the first place.
Friday, June 22, 2018
Mike heads home today, so things are starting to revert to normal,
which isn't to say recovery from the past week's wear and tear. Last
night we celebrated with a big cookout -- something which I haven't
done for five years or more (luckily, we had just enough propane left
to do the grilling). I don't much care for cooking outdoors, so what
made this possible was Matt agreeing to run the grill, with Mike's
assistance (he described himself as an "expediter"). Most of my work
was done the night before, as I put everything into marinade. I also
made the sweet potatoes, Greek salad, squid, soft shell crabs, and
peanut sauce. The menu:
- Grilled swordfish kebabs: Turkish marinade, mostly onion, lemon,
olive oil, paprika.
- Grilled chicken wings: Persian: olive oil, onion, saffron, yogurt.
- Grilled lamb (leg) kebabs: Turkish: olive oil, yogurt, onion juice,
- Grilled quail: same marinade as chicken.
- Grilled fresh pork butt kebabs: Chinese: hoisin sauce, bean sauce, wine,
soy sauce, sugar.
- Grilled thin-sliced beef: Korean (bulgogi): Korean pear, onion, scallion,
soy sauce, sugar, sesame.
- Grilled squid: Mediterranean: olive oil, lemon, garlic, parsley.
- Grilled asparagus: just olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Roasted sweet potato wedges with mejdol dates, scallions, balsamic
reduction, and goat cheese.
- Grilled Japanese eggplant with Chinese peanut sauce: sliced 1/4-inch
planks; sauce has a lot of garlic and cilantro, a little hot oil.
- Horiatiki (Greek) salad: green/yellow bell peppers, cucumber, red onion,
tomatoes, anchovies, black olives, feta cheese.
- Shallow-fried soft shell crabs: Chinese, in a sweet-sour sauce.
- Ciabatta: one of those "bake it yourself" loaves.
- Date pudding, topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream.
Over the course of the week I had cooked several small dinners for
Mike, Ram, and various others: baked fish with olives and capers; a
roast chicken; Korean ribs with fried rice. First two had potatoes.
Did a cheesy garlic bread with the chicken, topped with mozzarella
and gorgonzola, which was a big hit. Didn't do dessert with any of
them, but I thought the last night should be a bigger production,
and nothing I do is better than the date pudding.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Music: current count 29839  rated (+21), 349  unrated (+5).
A day late and a few records short of a normal week. We attended
a reception for the opening of the
Sacred Space Exhibition at Wichita State University. My nephew,
Mike Hull, came to Wichita for the reception, and has stayed on
to continue photographing artwork my late sister
Kathy Hull. My modest contribution to
all this hasn't gone much beyond cooking, including a roast chicken
last night, and some Korean ribs today. Unfortunately, I didn't feel
up to doing a big Korean thing today, so I decided to accompany with
my everyday Chinese fried rice and lima beans. [PS: Wound up also
making three distinctly Korean little dishes: sliced cucumbers with
garlic, sesame, and Korean red pepper; dried shiitake mushrooms,
soaked and stir-fried with garlic, sesame, and scallions; and dried
squid softened up in a sweet-and-spicy glaze.]
Started working on the Korea piece back on Thursday, thinking of
a different entry angle -- one that would focus on how Democrats
should talk about Trump when he veers away from neocon warmongering.
But I didn't do my due dilligence there, and as the dumb chatter
died down decided not to beat myself up over it. (When Colbert
last night announced he'd be doing something "after the break" on
Kim, Trump, and Putin, I hit delete.) And, as I noted, the family
separation at the border story has taken over. I have little to
add there, and don't even feel much like piling on. (Although,
link to a video Mike and Ellyssa Roberson did on a demonstration
here in Wichita.) Nor am I the least bit obsessive about the Russia
collusion/obstruction news, but it's hard to believe that even Trump's
diehard supporters aren't picking up on how guilty he's managing to
look -- of course, some of them are actually get off on his criminal
Mixed bag of records this week, including four very different
ones at A-. Also a couple of lower-than-usual grades. Not much
jazz. I wasn't able to find the new Skadedyr record Chris Monsen
likes, so checked out the old ones but didn't get into them. Next
week should be similar, maybe even shorter.
New records rated this week:
- Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Downey to Lubbock (2018, Yep Roc): [r]: A-
- Toni Braxton: Sex & Cigarettes (2018, Def Jam): [r]: B+(**)
- Chromeo: Head Over Heels (2018, Big Beat/WEA): [r]: A-
- The English Beat [Dave Wakeling]: Here We Go Love (2018, Here We Go): [r]: B-
- Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda/Gianni Mimmo: Triad (2017 , Long Song): [cd]: B+(***)
- Jon Hassell: Listening to Pictures (Pentimento Volume One) (2018, Ndeya): [r]: A-
- Allegra Levy: Looking at the Moon (2018, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Lykke Li: So Sad So Sexy (2018, RCA): [r]: B+(*)
- Melody's Echo Chamber: Bon Voyage (2018, Fat Possum): [r]: B
- Marieann Meringolo: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow: The Songs of Alan & Marilyn Bergman (2017 , Blujazz): [cd]: C+
- Rolling Blackouts C.F.: Hope Downs (2018, Sub Pop): [r]: A-
- J. Peter Schwalm: How We Fall (2017 , RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(*)
- Ebo Taylor: Yen Ara (2018, Mr. Bongo): [r]: B+(**)
- Will Vinson: It's Alright With Three (2017 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
- Jerry Vivino: Coast to Coast (2005-17 , Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
- Tim Warfield: Jazzland (2017 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(*)
- WorldService Project: Serve (2017 , Rare Noise): [cdr]: C-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Gene Clark: Gene Clark Sings for You (1967 , Omnivore): [r]: B
Old music rated this week:
- Gene Clark: Gene Clark With the Gosdin Brothers (1967, Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
- Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen: We've Got a Live One Here (1976, Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(**)
- Skadedyr: Kongekrabbe (2013, Hubro): [r]: B
- Skadedyr: Culturen (2016, Hubro): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Rodrigo Amado: A History of Nothing (Trost)
- John Bailey: In Real Time (Summit): June 22
- Big Heart Machine: Big Heart Machine (self-released): August 24
- Benje Daneman: Light in the Darkness (ACI): August 31
- Jeremy Ledbetter Trio: Got a Light? (Alma)
- Charles Pillow Large Ensemble: Electric Miles (MAMA): June 22
- Pocket Aces: Cull the Heard (Creative Nation Music): September 7
- Sibarg Ensemble: Cipher (self-released)
- The Thing: Again (Trost)
- Toronto Jazz Orchestra: 20 (2018, self-released)
Sunday, June 17, 2018
Korea on My Mind
The evening after the short and sweet Singapore summit between
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, I watched the reactions from late show
hosts Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Kimmel. One expects them
to take some liberties with the facts, but since Trump's election in
2016 they've generally tried to do so in ways that help illuminate
the world they are satirizing. However, they botched this big story
almost completely Tuesday night. And Colbert was so bad Wednesday
I wound up walking out of the room. Thanks to DVR, we've watched
Colbert and Meyers almost nightly since the election, and as I've
noted, I've often taken heart in their daily reminder that there
are many people -- some with public platforms -- that can't stand
Trump and the cruel, vicious, and avaricious regime he heads. But
the only way their humor works is when it's rooted in a deep and
critical understanding and and a sense of empathy that goes beyond
mere partisan advantage. They blew the Singapore summit because
they don't know or understand the history of how we got here, and
because they don't appreciate the costs and risks of perpetuating
the state of belligerency that's prevailed in Korea for 68 years
Meyers at least conceded that it's better that Trump and Kim are
talking than shooting, but he invariably followed that concession
with a "but," like it was something his lawyer forced him to disclaim.
All three repeatedly described Kim as "murderous dictator" (sometimes
just "brutal dictator"). Granted, a couple of times they built jokes
implying that Trump, too, is (or wants to be) a dictator. But they
wouldn't dare characterize Trump as murderous, even though as president
he's rung up by far the larger body count. And while people think it's
ironic that Kim is fat while millions of North Koreans starve, no one
bothered to mention how US and UN sanctions impose hardships on the
North Korean people (without, obviously, cramping the style of regime
leaders like Kim).
It is easy for many Americans to fall into the rut of hurling crude
slurs at North Korea and ad hominem attacks on Kim. Such were a staple
of Cold War propaganda, going back to the "yellow peril" fears of the
1940s -- originally Japan, but readily remapped by racist minds to
China, Korea, Vietnam. In the anti-communist mind we are free, and
they are enslaved, ruled by brutal dictators in the name of atheistic,
collectivist ideology. The Cold War mindset thawed a bit after the
collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, but when North Korea (and China,
Vietnam, and Cuba -- coincidentally the only Communist states the US
had actually fought hot wars and imposed long-term embargos against)
persisted, the old tropes were available for recycling. And no nation
has been treated more harshly by the US than North Korea.
Some relevant history: Organized states in Korea date back to
Goguryeo in 37 BCE, with various kingdoms coming and going, broken
up by periods of foreign (mostly Chinese) domination. Korea had
become a borderland repeatedly attacked by foreign powers, like
Japan in 1592-98, the Manchus in 1627 and 1636. After the Manchus
established the Qing Dynasty in China, Korea became a vassal. As
China weakened in the 19th century, Britain, France, Russia, and
Japan ventured into Korea. The US also got into the action, sending
gunboats (ostensibly to "open trade") to Korea, notably conflicts
in 1853, 1866, and 1871 -- the latter killing 243 Koreans, one of
those incidents that they remember but we don't. Japan fought a
war with China in 1894-95. One result was the short-lived Korean
Empire, annexed by Japan in 1910, and occupied until the Empire
was defeated in World War II.
American gunboats sailed into Tokyo Bay to force Japan to open
itself to foreign trade in 1853. This resulted in a revolution in
Japan that transformed the nation into an imperial state (the Meiji
Restoration), as the Japanese scrambled to adopt western technology
and empire-building. Japan fought a war against China in 1894-95,
capturing Taiwan (Formosa), breaking Korea off, and establishing a
toehold on the Chinese mainland. In 1905 Japan defeated Russia,
grabbing some Russian territory and concessions in Manchuria. In
1910 Japan annexed Korea. During WWI Japan declared war on Germany,
capturing a number of German islands in the west Pacific. In 1929,
Japan invaded Manchuria and set up a puppet kingdom there. In 1936,
Japan expanded its war against China, occupying major cities and
much of the coastline. In 1940, Japan signed the Tripartite Act,
allying itself with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, but in April
1941 Japan signed a Neutrality Pact with the Soviet Union, sparing
Russia the risk of having to fight a two-front war against Germany
and Japan, while allowing Japan to direct its imperial aims south.
In December 1941, Japan attacked the US Navy in Pearl Harbor, as
part of a major offensive in which they quickly overrun Malaya,
Indonesia, and the Philippines. Thus the US entered World War II.
In 1945, with Germany defeated, Truman begged the Soviet Union
to join in the war against Japan. Japanese forces had "fought to
the death" against American invaders, especially on Okinawa, and
Americans were fearful that they would prove even more fatalistic
when, in late 1945, the US could finally mount an invasion of
Japan itself. However, Japanese resolve collapsed in August 1945
after the Soviet Union entered the war, driving through Manchuria,
and the US dropped its first atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The sudden victory gave the US more leverage viz. its allies in
Asia than it had in Europe, where Stalin was able to insist on a
partition of Germany and Austria (but not Italy, which like Japan
was under exclusively American control). The Japanese themselves
were desperate to avoid any form of Russian occupation, but the
US had no troops in Korea, so offering the split the country at
the 38th Meridian was more of a Russian concession than an American
Both the US and the USSR installed congenial dictators over
their respective partitions. Both had spent the war in exile,
garnering favors from their respective hosts: Syngman Rhee was
the toast of cocktail parties in New York and Washington, and
Kim Il Sung commanded a small guerrilla unit biding its time in
Siberia. Once in power, both waged brutal crackdowns on those
they deemed "subversives" while vowing to reunite Korea under
their domination. History tells us that the North invaded the
South on June 25, 1950, but that act was at least in part
precipitated by massive arrests in the South. Kim's forces
nearly overran the entire peninsula before the US was able
to muster a counteroffensive, which in turn by October nearly
reached Korea's northern border. Then on October 25 a large
number of Chinese "volunteers" entered Korea, bringing the
war to a stalemate formalized in the 1953 Armistice line.
By the time Eisenhower replaced Truman and signed the Armistice,
over 36,000 US soldiers had been killed, some 183,000 Chinese, and
pproximately 3 million Koreans -- more than 10% of the Peninsula's
total population, higher in the North, where the US dropped more
tons of bombs than it had dropped on Japan during WWII. Although
the front had stabilized in early 1951, the war ground on for two
more years. Even in signing the Armistice, neither side was willing
to admit that its aims had failed. The US retained massive bases
in the South and nearby regions. Both sides engaged in provocative
behavior and extravagantly belligerent rhetoric. North Korea made
enormous, self-hampering investments in defense, maintaining a huge
army, digging bunkers deep underground, developing massive artillery,
rocketry, and ultimately nuclear warheads. All along the US refused
to end the formal state of war and normalize relations, even to the
extent it normally accorded other Communist states.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, and after China introduced a
degree of capitalism that attracted western interests, North Korea
became even more isolated. Meanwhile, South Korea overthrew their
US-backed military dictatorship, and developed a vibrant export-led
economy, becoming one of the wealthiest nations in Asia while the
North stagnated in isolation, its orthodox communist party evolving
into a strange quasi-religious cult around the "dear leader." Or so
it seemed, because the extreme isolation made it almost impossible
for Americans (or anyone) to understand what life was like there --
of course, that didn't stop our so-called experts from playing up
their "human rights violations" and decrying their sanctions-imposed
North Korea's economy rapidly deteriorated after the Soviet Union
ended its subsidies in 1991, with China only grudgingly offering a
trade relationship. Kim Il Sung's health deteriorated, and he died
in 1994, replaced by his son Kim Jong-il. North Korea has long been
haunted by its lack of petroleum and coal resources, so started to
look at nuclear power, which was its right as a member of the NPT
(Non-Proliferation Treaty). The US, recognizing the potential use
of any nuclear power technology for developing warheads, raised
a huge stink and tightened its restrictions on North Korea even
further. This came to a head in 1994, when Jimmy Carter trekked to
Pyongyang and negotiated the "Agreed Framework" between the US and
North Korea, but Clinton's residual cold warriors sandbagged the
deal, and GW Bush blew it up completely, ominously grouping North
Korea into his "Axis of Evil" along with two countries it had no
relations with -- two countries which had fought a decade-long war
against each other, Iran and Iraq. Bush invaded and desroyed Iraq,
while his lieutenants joked about taking on Iran next ("real men
go to Tehran"). North Korea responded to the threat by withdrawing
from the NPT and accelerating their nuclear weapons and missile
work, testing a bomb in 2006. That may have dampened Bush's ardor
to attack, but Iraq was already turning out to be more than Bush's
army could handle.
Still, the "weapons of mass destruction" pitch Bush had used to
sell his invasion of Iraq was easily retooled for Iran and North
Korea, with harsh sanctions the preferred stick for coercion, but
no enticing carrot -- "normalization," maybe, but most hard-liners
wouldn't accept anything less than regime change. Obama did sign
an agreement which allowed them to continue low-grade enrichment
while ending any possible advance toward nuclear weapons, but the
deal fell far short of normal diplomatic relations, allowing US
sanctions not tied to Iran's "nuclear program" to continue -- and
Trump, bowing to pressure from Israel and Saudi Arabia, reneged
from even that modest deal. (One hesitates to refer to Israel and
Saudi Arabia as America's allies, given how Trump has subordinated
America's interests to their parochial whims. But clearly neither
country takes Iran's "nuclear threat" seriously enough to give up
the immediate value their leaders find in isolating Iran.)
Whereas the nuclear programs Iraq, Iran, and Libya supposedly
posed were never serious, North Korea does have bombs (including
hydrogen-boosted) plus they have missiles capable of delivering
them to the continental America. After Bush provoked North Korea
to accelerate their program, Obama largly ignored them. Trump,
on the other hand, panicked, mocking "little Rocket Man" and
threatening "fire and fury like the world's never seen" if Kim
didn't surrender. As near as I can tell, four things changed
his course and attitude:
- The Defense Department refused to offer a military option to
end the crisis: it was clear to them, as it has been for years,
that there is no way the US can pre-emptively attack and defeat
North Korea at an acceptable cost.
- South Korea elected Moon Jae-in as president, who is much more
open to normalizing relations with North Korea than recent South
- Kim Jong-un sought a direct meeting with Trump, and arbitrarily
made a number of concessions ahead of the summit, most importantly
ending the recent series of nuclear and missile tests.
- Mike Pompeo, Trump's CIA Directory and now Secretary of State,
traveled twice to Pyongyang to act as the main intermediary between
Kim and Trump (thus far making up for Trump's pick of ultra-hawkish
John Bolton as National Security Director).
I don't care to speculate on what will happen next, but there's
no good reason why the state of hostility shouldn't end, including
the sanctions that have imposed such fear and hardship on the Korean
people. Both Korea should dial back their militaries, with the US
withdrawing its forces from South Korea. Trade and travel should be
eased, and diplomatic relations established. I doubt that North Korea
will make any significant changes to its politico-economic system,
but that shouldn't be a problem for the US: while many Americans claim
to be sensitive about North Korean "human rights violations," the US
government (especially under Trump) has been remarkably unbothered
when its ostensible allies are concerned (e.g., Israel, Saudi Arabia,
China, the Philippines). Trump has promised that if Kim follows his
lead, North Korea will become prosperous, but there is zero evidence
that the prescriptions known as "the Washington consensus" actually
raise living standards. More likely, Kim will look at other models,
like the mix of a closed political system and private incentives that
China has used to generate persistent double-digit growth rates. As
a leftist, I may not approve, but as an American I can hardly object.
What concerns me more is how people ostensibly on the left/democratic
end of the American political spectrum react to Trump's summit and to
the possible opening up of North Korea. The reaction so far has been
very mixed, with much of it -- as with the late-night comics I started
with -- downright atrocious. This matters because it's critical that
Democrats take smarter positions on world affairs, especially on matters
of war and peace. While most Democrats (and really most Americans) have
grown weary of the perpetual war machine, Democratic politicians have
reflexively bought into the world-hegemonic mindset, styling themselves
as the true believers in Americanism -- the civic religion that thinks
American leadership will save the world by conquering it. (Republicans,
on the other hand, cynically expect power to cower the world, reaping
profits. Neither approach has worked lately, partly because condescension
is no more appealing than arrogance.)
Oddly enough, Trump is on a mini-roll. While there is much to disagree
with, Democrats need to talk intelligently about these issues, rather
than just fall back on familiar tropes to score cheap points. Consider:
- Trump's tariffs are popular with people who think America has bent
over backwards to appease foreign powers, often to the detriment of
American workers. This includes labor unions establishment Democrats
have been so quick to throw under the bus.
- Trump's snub of the G7 conference elicited a torrent of ridicule
from pundits, who seem to feel more allegiance to "America's allies"
than to American voters. Throughout history, alliances have been ad hoc
associations to fight (or, rarely, and less effectively, to prevent)
wars. The US and USSR were allies against Germany and Japan, but once
WWII was over, without a common enemy their alliance dissolved, and
each constructed new alliances to check the ambitions of the other.
Those Cold War alliances should also have dissolved with the USSR,
but the US decided to maintain NATO, in large part to turn Russia
back into a potential enemy. Trump has questioned why we still want
to treat Russia as an enemy -- why we kicked Russia out of the G8,
why we sanction Russia, why we maintain NATO. He is right to do so,
but he gets attacked by neocons (who value Russia as a stimulus to
military spending) and by Democrats (who have their own grudges).
- Coming immediately after Trump's G7 tantrums, his glad-handing
of Kim Jong-un in Singapore struck a certain kind of Democrat as
more evidence of Trump's man-crush on foreign dictators, rather
than as an earnest attempt to avoid an utterly senseless nuclear
I haven't had time or stomach to track down many of the stupid
things Democratic pundits and politicos have said about Trump and
North Korea. (I have seen a few wretched examples on Twitter, and
my wife has been fuming about many more, so I've been aware of more
than I've read.) I've been using Vox as my first source on most
things political, so the first post-summit piece I read was
Zack Beauchamp/Jennifer Williams: 4 winners and 4 losers from the
Trump-Kim summit. They saw Kim as a clear winner, describing
him as "a brutal dictator who starves and imprisons his own citizens."
His triumph? "And he just got the president of the United States to
fly halway around the world to meet, shake his hand, and cencel
military exercises with his greatest enemy -- all without giving
up anything major in return." How quickly the authors forgot that
North Korea had already released three American prisoners (search
for "hostages" or you'll miss the story), halted all nuclear and
missile tests, and destroyed his nuclear test site; also that the
US and South Korea had called off their scheduled "war games" as
a pre-summit gesture. For months now we've been hearing that Kim's
real goal was to get world legitimacy by being photographed with
Trump. And here they're still clinging to this line a mere week
after Steph Curry and LeBron James went out of their way to make
sure they wouldn't get a White House invite from Trump. (Granted,
Kim may be more hard up for attention than they are, but on the
other hand, the US hasn't been organizing "war games" to terrorize
Worse still, the authors listed South Korea as the big loser
in the summit, because they lost out on participating in those
"war games," therefore undermining their confidence that the US
would defend them from an attack from the North. Moreover, they
claimed that South Korea wasn't even consulted before Trump sold
them out -- another case of the US double-crossing its faithful
allies. In point of fact, South Korea had previously agreed to
canceling the "war games," and after the fact reassured Trump of
their agreement. But the most important fact forgotten here is
that South Korea has by far the most to lose in a war between the
US and North Korea, and therefore the most to gain by agreements
for peace. Except maybe for the "suffering North Koreans," also
counted among the summit's losers, because nothing concrete was
agreed to relieve their suffering at the summit -- as if the only
way out of their conundrum would be an American "humanitarian war."
Even if "hundreds of thousands of Koreans have died in these gulags
over the past several decades," a renewed war would surely kill more
than the three million killed with relatively primitive weapons 65
After thinking about it a couple more days, Vox revised its
winner-loser calculations, concluding
The big winner of the Trump-Kim summit? China. Again, their
calculus was based exclusively on geopolitical strategic concerns:
if the US withdraws troops from South Korea, that would make it
easier for the Chinese military to flex its muscles in the region.
Of course, no consideration was given to other reasons why China
might benefit from avoiding a new war in Korea: most obviously
the threats of stray radiation and massive refugees.
Several links worth reading on the Singapore summit:
Also on the G7, see
George Monbiot: Donald Trump was right. The rest of the G7 were wrong.
I wouldn't go so far as to say that Trump's opposition to NAFTA and other
trade deal is right, because I doubt that his reasoning on the subject.
On the other hand, sometimes you have to credit unlikely allies for doing
the right thing, even if for the wrong reasons.
By the way, I haven't run across nearly as many dumb Dem-leaning
articles on the summit as I expected, probably because many of the writers
so-inclined have moved onto safer moral high ground, attacking Trump for
the new policy of separating children from parents at the border. That
has become by far the big story of the past week.
Some scattered, discarded paragraphs:
I don't doubt that there is a time and place to take a serious
look at Kim's regime on a whole range of questions including human
rights issues, but bringing it up in the context of negotiations
aimed at averting war and normalizing relations between the US and
North Korea is totally uncalled for. One can't avoid the suspicion
that Trump's critics are doing so in hopes of poisoning agreement --
if not to actually promote war, at least to extend the sanctions
that are causing the North Korean people so much misery. Somehow
they feel it's their prerogative to tell other country's leaders
how to govern. This must give them a self-satisfied sense of moral
superiority, but it comes off as impractical hypocrisy, and snobbish
However, since the early 1990s -- when Russian subsidies
ended -- the DPRK has alternated between inflamatory threats and
grudging pleas to end the isolation. Both have fallen on closed
ears because US leaders haven't felt any reason or motivation to
change -- in part because they never any responsibility for their
actions, in part because they've gotten trapped in their permanent
Monday, June 11, 2018
Music: current count 29818  rated (+32), 344  unrated (+5).
Not much to say about music this week. Just sort of feeling my way
around the new computer. One thing I noticed is that it's much easier
to go straight to a download/stream from email now that I'm doing both
on the same machine. In particular, I used to get a lot of CDs from
the world music publicist Rock Paper Scissors, but for the last few
years all they've sent was email, which I almost never dealt with. But
a couple records below (Diali Cissokho, Ginkgoa, Parliament) came out
of their mail. I also made a point of thumbing through the July issue
of Downbeat and looking up most of the reviewed records I didn't
receive. Neither of those strategies led to great discoveries, but they
did turn up some pretty good records.
Overall count for the week was solid. Most likely it will fall off
next week, as we're expecting company for a big event on Wednesday,
4:30-7:00 PM, at McKnight Art Center on the campus of Wichita State
Sacred Space Exhibition Reception. This is a set of seven large
portals: doorways opening to views of the world through various prisms
of religion. The artwork was originally constructed and painted back
in 2002, under the direction of the late Diane Thomas Lincoln, with
my sister, Kathy Hull, taking a major role. I have write ups and some
pictures from the original development and exhibit
here. The artwork has been in storage
for much of the intervening time. Before her fatal accident this spring,
my sister had campaigned to remount the exhibit, and she conspired with
Mike Hull to
produce a documentary on the work. This project won't come off quite
as originally intended, but Mike will be here to film what he can,
and we'll try to be helpful.
The exhibit will be on view, free to the public, 9 A.M.-5 P.M. at
the Clayton Staples Gallery, second floor of McKnight Art Center West,
through August 31, 2018.
Coincidentally, I just heard this week that another of Kathy's
major projects -- a mural based on the Mexican Day of the Dead
celebration on the south side of a laundromat at Arkansas and 25th
St N here in Wichita -- is going to be painted over sometime soon.
I only found one Google image search picture,
here, as it was being painted (Linda Jordan left, Kathy right).
I also have a
finished photo in my archives, as well as a picture of Kathy
holding her sketch in front of the work-in-progress which at the
time appeared in the
Wichita Eagle. Ram Lama
Hull posted a couple more recent photos on Facebook:
here. Ram commented:
My mother, who died in March, was the designer and lead artist for the
mural back in 2006. . . . In honor of and respect for my mother, please
give the owner of the building peace.
Now that I'm back in communication with the building's owner, I will
be looking for a new place to recreate the mural. The new mural that will
be taking its place at 25th and Arkansas will celebrate the cycles of
life and the women in the community, both of which are things my mother
Mike has already photographed a lot of Kathy's art, and I expect
he will be doing more this week, including some "last shots" of the
Actually, I guess I do have a couple of brief notes on music.
Michael Tatum has been doing one of those "10 records in 10 days"
things on Facebook. His first three picks recapitulate my own
evolving tastes in the years just before I started writing rock
crit: The Byrds, Sweetheart of the Rodeo; Rhino's disco
compilation, Turn the Beat Around (1974-1978); and Roxy
Music, Siren. I would have picked Stranded, and
tried to work in Al Green, I'm Still in Love With You,
and Brinsley Schwarz's New Favourites, but Michael is
definitely onto something. Given that I've archived
his work in the past, I've
started to squirrel away these
I'll also note that Robert Christgau's latest
Expert Witness has two A records that I gave very solid A- grades
to some time back: Parquet Courts: Wide Awaaaaake!, and No Age:
Snares Like a Haircut. I see now that I screwed up the news roll
notice for that post -- sorry about that. I've been making slow progress
fixing my local copy of the website, but I'm still a long ways away from
being able to do a general update. (Same, really, for my own websites.)
I'll also note that I played the new Lily Allen album (No Shame)
a half-dozen times today without being able to grade it A-. May still
happen: I've decided to back off and give it some time, but it's clearly
not going to be my album of the year, as her last two were. Not that I
don't still adore her, but only a few songs reinforce that (like "Waste").
On the other hand, a couple songs are very bland, and "Cake" is way too
much of a cliché. And only on the last play did it sink in that "Three"
is meant to be in the voice of her daughter. Sure, makes sense that way,
but doesn't sound right.
New records rated this week:
- Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel (2018, Mom + Pop Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Jamie Baum Septet+: Bridges (2018, Sunnyside): : B+(*)
- Bombino: Deran (2018, Partisan): [r]: B+(***)
- Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba: Routes (2018, Twelve/Eight): [dl]: B+(***)
- Detroit Bop Quintet: Two Birds (2014 , TQM, EP): [cd]: B+(*)
- Fatoumata Diawara: Fenfo: Something to Say (2018, Shanachie): [r]: B+(**)
- Elina Duni: Partir (2017 , ECM): [r]: B+(*)
- Enemy: Enemy (2016 , Edition): [r]: B+(**)
- Román Filiú: Quarteria (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
- Erik Friedlander: Artemisia (2017 , Skipstone): [r]: B+(**)
- Tia Fuller: Diamond Cut (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
- Ginkgoa: One Time (2018, self-released, EP): [dl]: B+(**)
- Vinny Golia/Steph Richards/Bert Turetzky: Trio Music (2017 , PfMentum): [bc]: B+(*)
- Gene Jackson Trio NuYorx: Power of Love (2017 , Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(*)
- Nellie McKay: Sister Orchid (2018, Palmetto): [r]: B+(**)
- Brad Mehldau: After Bach (2017 [2018, Nonesuch): [r]: B
- Brad Mehldau: Seymour Reads the Constitution! (2018, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
- Parliament: Medicaid Fraud Dogg (2018, C Kunspyruhzy): [r]: B
- Jure Pukl/Matija Dedic: Hybrid (2016 , Whirlwind): [bc]: B+(***)
- Jure Pukl: Doubtless (2017 , Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(**)
- Joshua Redman/Ron Miles/Scott Colley/Brian Blade: Still Dreaming (2018, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(**)
- Stephanie Richards: Fullmoon (2018, Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(**)
- Chris Thile/Brad Mehldau: Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau (2017, Nonesuch): [r]: B-
- Sidi Touré: Toubalbero (2018, Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(**)
- Joshua Trinidad: In November (2015 , RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Anthony Braxton: The Essential Anthony Braxton: The Arista Years (1974-80 , Arista/Legacy): [r]: A-
- The Rough Guide to the Best Country Blues You've Never Heard (1927-36 , World Music Network): [r]: B+(***)
- Esbjörn Svensson Trio: E.S.T. Live in London (2005 , ACT, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Sidi Touré: Hoga (1996, Sterns Africa): [r]: B+(***)
- Sidi Touré: Alafia (2013, Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(**)
- Whirl: Revolving Rapidly Around an Axis (2014 , Den): [bc]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Tucker Antell: Grime Scene (OA2): June 15
- Jarod Bufe: New Spaces (OA2): June 15
- The End: The End (RareNoise): advance, June 29
- Pete McCann: Pay for It on the Other Side (McCannis Music): July 20
- Marieann Meringolo: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow: The Songs of Alan & Marilyn Bergman (Blujazz)
- Dori Rubbicco: Stage Door Live! (Whaling City Sound)
- The Jamie Saft Quartet: Blue Dream (RareNoise): advance, June 29
- Rafal Sarnecki: Climbing Trees (Outside In Music): July 27
- Jerry Vivino: Coast to Coast (Blujazz)
- Kobie Watkins Grouptet: Movement (Origin): June 15
Miscellaneous Album Notes:
- The Rough Guide to the Best Country Blues You've Never Heard
(1927-36 , World Music Network):
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Big news this coming week will be the Singapore summit between
Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. No one I've read has any idea what the
Koreans (either North or South) are thinking going into the summit,
nor do they seem to have any grasp on the Trump administration --
not just because Trump has been even cagier than usual (by which I
mean his peculiar habit of masking ignorance with uncertainty and
whimsy and passing it all off as unpredictability). Still, one piece
I tried to read was
Alex Ward: Trump just made 3 shocking statements about North Korea.
I've cited Ward's pieces on Korea before, and expect something more
or less sensible from him, but this isn't that. First problem here is
that I can't find any statements, much less "shocking" ones, by Trump
here. Actually, the most ignorant statements appear to be coming from
Ward, such as: "Presidents don't habitually welcome murderous dictators
to the White House"; and "Experts I spoke to said that's [a "normal"
relationship with the US] something North has wanted for years because
it would legitimize the Kim regime in the eyes of the world." Isn't it
a little late to think that meeting with Donald Trump will legitimize
anyone? Having been shunned by the Philadelphia Eagles and the Golden
State Warriors, isn't Trump the one left with a desperate craving for
The most shocking statement in the article is a subhed: "Kim has
given little away. Trump has offered a lot." What exactly has Trump
offered, other than his passive-aggressive willingness to meet, most
recently couched in a vow to walk out of the meeting within ten minutes
if he doesn't like the vibe? Ward cites an Ankit Panda tweet as "on
table for June 12 should things go well, as of Trump's recent remarks":
- declaration on end of Korean War
- move toward normalization
- agreement on moving toward a peace treaty
- invitation for Kim Jong Un to the US
- no sanctions relief until denuclearization (per Abe)
The first point is really a no-brainer. The War effectively ended 65
years ago, and nobody wants to restart it. Normalization should also be,
and should move directly into some degree of sanctions relief -- certainly
for trade of non-military goods. The US had diplomatic relations with the
Soviet Union long before it broke up, and with China long before they
adopted any market reforms, and it's certain that even the constrained
degree of normalization there helped bring about reform. The US hasn't
been willing to engage with North Korea because Americans bear grudges
over the 1950-53 war they couldn't win, because North Korea is a useful
enemy to bolster defense spending, and because (unlike China, to pick
an obvious example) businesses don't forsee a lot of profit opportunity
there. In short, it has, thus far, cost the US very little to perpetuate
a state of hostility, and until North Korea developed ICBMs with nuclear
warheads, there never seemed to be any risk.
There really isn't much risk even now: Kim certainly understands that
any offensive use of his new weapons will only result in the obliteration
of his country. It's become abundantly clear that the only value anyone
has ever gained with nuclear weapons is deterrence against foreign attack.
Still, no one likes being tested, let alone intimidated, and dread makes
a fragile foundation for peace. Closed, hostile relations are lose-lose.
Open, equitable relations can be win-win: most obviously by opening up
free trade. What's happened over the past two years is that North Korea
first put on a show of force to get US attention, then followed that up
with a series of conciliatory gestures opening up the prospect of normal
relations and mutual economic growth. If the US had sensible people in
charge of foreign policy, this whole process would be straightforward.
Unfortunately, we have Trump, and Trump has Bolton, but even people who
should know better (like Ward) keep falling back into unhelpful habits.
The big question this summit faces is whether Trump and Kim can figure
out a way to sequence steps they ultimately seem to be willing to agree
to: ending the official state of hostilities, normalizing relations (which
both includes ending sanctions and deescalating military threats). The
Bolton position insists on North Korea giving up everything before the
US gives in on anything, and Bolton is ideally positioned to whisper in
Trump's gullible ear.
I could write something about what I think should happen, but it won't.
As Trump says, "we'll see."
Still not doing full website updates, although I've been making
plodding progress fixing the massive breakage from the crash. One
thing of particular note is that I lost various passwords for my
wife's media accounts. I've restored a couple, but not all of them,
and I'm getting annoying complaints for lack of the rest. Thus far
a more conspicuous problem is that I'm running Firefox without an
ad blocker, so for the first time in years I'm experiencing the
entire torrent of hideousness that supposedly keeps the internet
free. I guess I'll chalk it up to experience, but the irritation
factor is immense, and I'm not sure how long before I break down
and try to defend myself. Still, I can imagine some sort of add-on
short of a blocker that would make it more tolerable: some way to
point at an object and either delete or cover it up.
Keyboard still giving me aggravation, but I have a replacement
ready to plug in: a mechanical (brown) switch gaming thing with
red LED backlighting. Certainly the most expensive keyboard I've
bought since my typesetting days, or maybe my old IBM Selectric.
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias didn't flag any important stories last week, but he
did post some:
Scott Pruitt's Ritz-Carlton moisturizing lotion scandal, explained.
In one sense I feel sorry for Pruitt. After all, Trump's cabinet is
starkly divided between the haves and have-nots, and there must be an
awful lot of social pressure on the latter to join the former. Since
the most obvious dividing line is between those who have private jets
and those who don't, it's not surprising that Tom Price became the
first scandal casualty over his department's hiring of private jets.
Pruitt is one of the have-nots, and many of his too-numerous-to-count
scandals involve excessive spending (no private jets yet, but lots of
first-class air tickets). Another is using his oversized security
detail for personal errands -- I doubt we'd be hearing about this if
it were regular staff, but Pruitt's politics seems to go hand-in-glove
with his craving for luxury and his imperious management style. After
all, few people in the Trump administration have done more special
favors for their rich benefactors? Not surprising that Pruitt should
feel like he deserves a taste. In days past, most people in Pruitt's
shoes have had the discretion to wait until they leave government to
cash in. But in the Trump era, greed is shameless, but only the haves
(like Trump himself) who really get to flaunt it.
For more on Pruitt's more serious scandals, see:
Umair Irfan: 2 key environmental policies Scott Pruitt was dismantling
this week amid his scandals. If you need to catch up, see:
Oliver Milman: A scandal for all seasons: those Scott Pruitt ethics
violations in full.
The Trump-Trudeau argument about steel tariffs and the War of 1812,
The outlook for a blue wave, explained.
Yglesias/Andrew Prokop: 3 winners and 2 losers from California's 2018
California's primary results suggest Democrats are on track for a House
Missouri special election results: Lauren Arthur wins.
America's allies should respond to steel tariffs with targeted sanctions
on the Trump Organization. Clever idea, especially given that the
US feels entitled to impose sanctions not only on governments that it
doesn't like but on individuals who appear to be influential on those
governments. On the other hand, it bothers me when critics like Yglesias
attack Trump's trade policies for weakening America's system of Cold War
alliances. The US has long subsidized those alliances, especially in
East Asia, by giving in to unfavorable trade relations, and that's
ultimately undermined American jobs and skills. On the other hand, the
blame doesn't rest primarily with trade (look especially at finance
and global capital flows). Nor are tariffs a particularly good fix:
their economic purpose is to protect developing industry, but without
investment they offer nothing more than excess rents.
Democrats' ongoing reevaluation of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky,
Zeeshan Aleem: The G7 summit looked like it was going okay. Then Trump
got mad on Twitter. Note photo of Trump sitting meekly with his
arms crossed and hands tucked away, while Angela Merkel gets in his
face, with Shinzo Abe and John Bolton looking shifty in the background.
[PS: Saw a tweet with this picture, captioned: 'The Persuasion of the
Imbecile' by Caravaggio.]
As everyone knows, Trump is a world class asshole, but he's not the
sort who'll pick a fight in person. One recalls that back during the
campaign he made a publicity trip to Mexico to confront the president
there over his wall idea but was so polite he didn't dare ruffle any
feathers, only to return to a rally in Phoenix that night where he
delivered one of his most racist and xenophobic speeches. So I guess
it's no surprise that he waited until he was back in his comfort zone --
tweeting from the plane as he flew away -- to trash the G7 conference
and his fellow leaders' lukewarm efforts to make nice. Or maybe it
just took some private time with Bolton to buck the president up. For
what happened next, see:
Matt Shuham: G7 Nations Respond to Trump's Rejection of Joint Statement:
'Let's Be Serious'. Given that the former G8 kicked Russia out to
show their disapproval of Russia's annexation of Crimea, maybe they'll
soon become the G6. Actually, I think Trump is right here:
Trump wants Russia invited back into the G7. This notion that nations
are entitled to shun and shame other countries because it plays well in
domestic polling is hacking the world up into hostile camps, at a time
when cooperation is more important than ever. And right now the biggest
divider is none other than Donald Trump, although he actually gets way
too much help from many Democrats. For instance here's a tweet that got
forwarded to my feed:
Popular vote winner Hillary Clinton warned everyone that Russia was
interfering in the election and that, if elected, Trump would serve
as Putin's Puppet.
Trump just ruined the G7 summit and pissed off our allies . . . She
was right about everything.
Actually, she's not even right about this: the G7/8 isn't necessarily
a meeting of "our allies" -- the members are supposedly the world's major
economies -- and more inclusive would be better than less. On the other
hand, she wouldn't have withdrawn from Paris, or from the Iran agreement,
nor would she have levied steel and aluminum tariffs, which Trump turned
into points of contention, not just with "allies" but with everyone. For
more on this, see:
Susan B Glasser: Under Trump, "America First" Really Is Turning Out to
Be America Alone. You might also note
this data point: a poll of Germans reveals that only 14% "consider
the US a reliable partner"; the figure for Russia is 36%, China 43%.
Katie Annand: I work with children separated from caregivers at the border.
What happens is unforgibable.
In addition to the nearly incomprehensible suffering the United States
is imposing on these children, the administration's new policy, which
separates children from parents, makes it much harder for the child to
make a claim for US protection. As of last month, all parents are being
referred for prosecution because they crossed into the United States
without documentation. The parents are placed into US Marshals custody
in an adult detention facility, while the child is rendered "unaccompanied"
and deportation proceedings are initiated against the child alone. Their
case is completely separated from their parents and little to no
communication is facilitated between the parent and child.
Parents don't know what's happening to their children, and vice versa.
This has significant implications for the child's ability to make their
case for US protection. Often, adult family members have information and
documents that are vital to making their case. We see children who may
not know why they came to the United States -- parents and caregivers
often do not tell their children the full story, lest they be scared or
Ryan Devereaux: 1,358 Children and Counting -- Trump's "Zero Tolerance"
aBorder Policy Is Separating Families at Staggering Rates.
Nicholas Bagley: Trump's legal attack on the ACA isn't about health care.
It's a war on the rule of law. Also:
Dylan Scott: The Trump Administration believes Obamacare's preexisting
conditions protections are now unconstitutional.
Fiona Harvey: 'Carbon bubble' could spark global financial crisis, study
warns: A "bubble," here as elsewhere, is an excessively high valuation
of an asset, making it likely to rapidly deflate in the future, probably
damaging the global financial system. There is good reason to think that
oil and gas reserves are overvalued, mostly because demand is likely to
decline in favor of non-carbon energy sources (especially solar). Harvey
What is the carbon bubble and what will happen if it bursts?
Emily Heiler: The New Yorker's Jane Mayer recommends 3 books about money
and American politics: Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Winner-Take-All
Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer -- and Turned Its Back on
the Middle Class; F Scott Fitzgerald: The Diamond as Big as the
Ritz; and Kim Phillips-Fein: Invisible Hands: The Businessmen's
Crusade Against the New Deal. I've read two of those -- not hard to
guess which -- and they're pretty good, but better still is Mayer's own
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise
of the Radical Right, and I should also mention Max Blumenthal:
Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party,
and Thomas Frank: The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule. And
while it's a bit dated -- as Michael Lewis later noted on his book on
1980s financial scandals, Liar's Poker: "how quaint" -- you can
still learn things from Kevin Phillips: American Dynasty: Aristocracy,
Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush (2004). For
my part, I've been aware of the pervasive influence of money in politics
at least since c. 1970, when I read G. William Domhoff's Who Rules
America? (1967) and the Ferdinand Lundberg's The Rich and the
Super-Rich: A Study in the Power of Money Today (1968, revising his
1936 America's 60 Families) -- and that was back in the golden
age of American equality (Paul Krugman dubbed it "the great compression").
But once you start noticing the role money plays in politics, you find it
German Lopez: Trump wants to execute drug dealers. But he granteed
commutation to one because Kim Kardashian asked.
Jay Rosen: Why Trump Is Winning and the Press Is Losing: Sure,
Trump's pre-emptive war on "Fake News" is mostly a prophylactic
between Trump's supporters and the possibility that honest media
might expose some of his lies and distortions, and more importantly
the real effects of Republican policies on people's lives. "Nixon
seethed about the press in private. Trump seethes in public." And
it's not just Trump: "At the bottom of the pyramid is an army of
online trolls and alt-right activists who shout down stories critical
of the president and project hatred at the journalists who report
them. Between the president at thetop and the baseat the bottom are
the mediating institutions: Breitbart, Drudge Report,
The Daily Caller, Rush Limbaugh, and, especially, Fox News."
Of course, you know all that. But what about this:
There is a risk that journalists could do their job brilliantly, and
it won't really matter, because Trump supporters categorically reject
it, Trump opponents already believed it, and the neither-nors aren't
paying close enough attention. In a different way, there is a risk
that journalists could succeed at the production of great journalism
and fail at its distribution, because the platforms created by the
tech industry have so overtaken the task of organizing public attention.
Actually, there isn't much chance of brilliant journalism, for lots
of reasons -- institutional biases, of coruse, but also issue complexity,
received frameworks, the neverending struggle between superficiality and
depth, and the simple question of who cares about what. For example,
"There is a risk that Republican elites will fail to push back against
Trump's attacks on democratic institutions, including the press" --
but why assume they should push back when they're leading the charge?
It's always been the case that one's interests colored one's views.
What is relatively new is the insistence that only views matter, that
there are no objective facts worth considering. In the old days, one
tried to spin the news. Now you just run roughshod over your opposition.
And it's really not Trump who started this. The first real articulation
of the idea came during the Bush years, when someone (Karl Rove?) made
fun of "the reality-based community." From there, it was only a short
step before Republicans started wondering why we should encourage people
to get a higher education. Trump simply bought into the prevailing party
line. As I said during the campaign, Republicans have been adept at "dog
whistling" racism for many years, but Trump doesn't do that. He's just
On the other hand, maybe you can make a case for brilliant journalism:
Jon Schwarz: Seymour Hersh's New Memoir Is a Fascinating, Flabbergasting
Masterpiece. Matt Taibbi also wrote:
Seymour Hersh's Memoir Is Full of Useful Reporting Secrets.
Jeremy Scahill: More Than Just Russia -- There's a Strong Case for the
Trump Team Colluding With Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE: Even
before you get to the question of who got the most bang for their
Emily Stewart: Why there's so much speculation about Starbucks chair
Howard Schultz's 2020 ambitions: Well, he's a rich Democrat, and
as far back as the Kennedys the party has been jonesing for candidates
rich enough to fund their own campaigns. Stewart mentions other rich
and often famous rumored candidates like Mark Cuban, Bob Iger, Mark
Zuckerberg, and Oprah Winfrey. Clearly, the media is smitten with the
idea, especially those who saw Trump's election as a popular rebuke
to the Washington establishment. But hasn't Trump utterly discredited
the notion that America would be better off run like a corporation?
I suppose you could counter that Trump wasn't actually much good at
running his business, whereas other entrepreneurs are more competent,
at least to the point of recognizing when they need to hire skilled
help. But frankly the record for successful businessmen moving into
the presidency isn't encouraging. Stewart offers some examples:
To be sure, Trump isn't the only US president to have experience in
business. George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Herbert
Hoover also had significant private sector experience on their résumés,
and none, arguably, performed spectacularly well.
Well, the Bushes were always hacks, who got set up in the Texas oil
business thanks to political connections, and still didn't get much
out of it. (G.W. Bush made most of his money as the front man "owner"
of the Texas Rangers baseball franchise, where the money came from
real oil men.) Unlike the Bushes (Jack Germond liked to refer to them
as "empty suits"), Hoover and Carter were very smart, knowledgeable,
dilligent, and earnest, and terrible presidents. I've been toying with
the idea that American political history breaks down to four eras each
with a dominant party, demarcated by elections in 1800, 1860, 1932,
and 1980 (Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and [ugh!] Reagan). Hoover
and Carter lost reëlection bids in two of those (James Buchanan ended
the 1800-60 era, although he bears no other resemblance to Hoover or
Carter). Trump will probably wind up sinking the Reagan era, but had
it not been for the haplessness of the Democrats under Clinton and
Obama, either Bush could have been the endpost. (The former lost to
Clinton after a single term, and while the latter scratched out a
second term, his final approval ratings were in the 20% range -- the
worst since polling began.)
I find it interesting that the richest US president before Trump,
relative to his time of course, was George Washington -- a president
Trump bears no other similarity to whatsoever. In particular, while
Washington's "I cannot tell a lie" legend is apocryphal, he did go
to great lengths to make certain that he was viewed as honest and
"disinterested" -- that his statements and actions as president were
virtuous and free of any hint of corruption. Trump is his polar
opposite, a reflexive liar who scarcely ever bothers to conceal his
financial interests in his power. Moreover, although several factors
have conspired lately to thrust the wealthy into public office --
Mitt Romney, for instance, has a net worth close to Washington's
(relatively speaking), and John McCain and John Kerry married rich
heiresses. That atmosphere lends credibility to the moguls listed
in the article. On the other hand, while almost anyone else on the
Forbes 400 list could mount a campaign as "a better billionaire,"
one doubts the American people will feel like buying another. But
given the DNC's crush on the rich and/or famous, they'd most likely
welcome the idea.
Alexia Underwood: 5 Anthony Bourdain quotes that show why he was
beloved around the world: Very much saddened at news of Bourdain's
death. I read three of his books -- Kitchen Confidential: Adventures
in the Cullinary Underbelly, A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in
Extreme Cuisine, and Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World
of Food and the People Who Cook. I recognized a kindred spirit not
just in taste but more importantly in appreciating the work that goes
into preparing good food. That isn't unusual among food writers, but
time and again he surprised me with his take on people and history. I
recall the Kissinger quote here from the book, or something very like
it -- he wrote a lot about Vietnam and Cambodia in that book. The only
one of the five quotes here that seems off is the one about North Korea,
but that's because he didn't go there, didn't meet people and cook and
eat with them, so all he's got is the newsreel. Maybe what he's been
told is right, but elsewhere he took the bother to find out for himself.
And as he's discovered repeatedly, people pretty much everywhere come
up with ingenious ways of coping even with terrible hardships. No reason
North Koreans should be that different. I doubt I've seen his shows more
than five times, but liked them well enough to imagine watching more --
just never found the time. But the one thing I've repeatedly observed is
that he's shown it's possible to appreciate good food without taking on
snobbish airs. That's mostly because he respects everyone and everything
that goes into a meal.
I went back to the notebook to see what I had written about Bourdain
over the years. Not as much as I thought I remembered, but there is his
The Post-Election Interview. I also found a quote I had copied down,
from Medium Raw, which has suddenly taken on a new chill:
I was forty-four years old when Kitchen Confidential hit -- and
if there was ever a lucky break or better timing, I don't know about
it. At forty-four, I was, as all cooks too long on the line must be,
already in decline. You're not getting any faster -- or smarter -- as
a cook after age thirty-seven. The knees and back go first, of
course. That you'd expect. But the hand-eye coordination starts to
break up a little as well. And the vision thing. But it's the brain
that sends you the most worrying indications of decay. After all those
years of intense focus, multitasking, high stress, late nights, and
alcohol, the brain stops responding the way you like. You miss
things. You aren't as quick reading the board, prioritizing the dupes,
grasping at a glance what food goes where, adding up totals of steaks
on hold and steaks on the fire -- and cumulative donenesses. Your
hangovers are more crippling and last longer. Your temper becomes
shorter -- and you become more easily frustrated with yourself for
fucking up little things (though less so with others). Despair --
always a sometime thing in the bipolar world of the kitchen -- becomes
more frequent and longer-lasting as one grows more philosophical with
age and has more to despair about.
Some more scattered Bourdain links:
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Dredged up by Facebook from two years ago today:
In Ansonia CT today, enjoying the generous hospitality of Maher and
Stephanie Musleh. Been reading Karen Armstrong's Fields of
Blood, and founded this on p. 226: "All three Abrahamic faiths
began with defiant rejection of inequity and systemic violence, which
reflects the persistent conviction of human beings, dating back
perhaps to the hunter-gatherer period, that there should be an
equitable distribution of resources." Context was the anti-Cathar
Crusade of 1207, one of history's most violent instances of the rich
and powerful's perpetual efforts to silence their critics.
I was driving home from attending the New York City wedding of my
nephew Mike Hull and Morgan Foley, admittedly jogging a bit out of my
way to see friends in Connecticut and Massachusetts before driving
back through Buffalo and Arkansas. I can't help but wonder whether
if I had seen more evidence of the "defiant rejection of inequity
and systemic violence" among the church-going Christians I had grown
up with I wouldn't have lost my teenaged faith so completely and
Ran across a problem with my "mdweb" program today, which is
generating spurious junk characters in my "all.tbl" file. This
probably has something to do with the wholesale adoption of UTF-8
over ISO-8859-1 in recent Ubuntu releases, but it looks rather
like some strings aren't properly terminated and picking up some
extra bytes (e.g., "\215=^?" -- looks like "^?" means "\177").
After some sleuthing, I discovered that strncpy() wasn't properly
terminating the copied strings, so they were left with garbage at
end of buffer. Also may (or may not) have helped that I installed
an en_US.iso88591 locale definition. I changed mdweb to explicitly
set this instead of inheriting the system definition. The program
will have to undergo a major rewrite to work with UTF-8.
Monday, June 04, 2018
Music: current count 29786  rated (+27), 339  unrated (-5).
Rated count better than expected, but mostly due to listening to
old (often familiar) music -- only 11 new releases below. Could be
that I listened to/rated/reviewed a few albums between last Monday's
update and my catastrophic computer crash. If so, I'll have to go
back and redo. But I did find a couple of bookkeeping discrepancies
that added to the rated count.
Current computer status:
- Old work machine dead. New power supply had no effect, so motherboard
is dead. Haven't removed and tested disks each. They are RAID-1, so both
should have same data, and I should be able to recover from either one,
but there's some learning curve there. Also possible the surge fried one
- Using my "music/media" machine I built a couple years ago. It is same
or better (albeit cheaper), with an 8-core AMD processor (FX-8350), ASUS
970 Pro Gaming ATX motherboard, 32 GB SDRAM (1866), ASUS Radeon 2GB video
card (best I could find for less than $60), 2 TB SATA hard disk, 24X DVD
burner. It's running Ubuntu 16.04, which is a big advance from 12.04 on
the dead machine. It is surprisingly fast at most things. But the newer
software presents its own problems.
- I had the computers on two opposite desks, so I've just turned around
rather than try to move computers. However, the new desk is messier, the
keyboard and mouse are less convenient (newer but generally crummier --
slower and more accident prone), and the lighting worse, so I need to
work on all that.
- I've recovered and restored the data on my various web servers, and
set up local vhosted copies of each of the websites. Most have suffered
quite a bit of breakage -- sometimes configuration problems, but mostly
due to changes from PHP 5 to PHP 7. The worst of these problems is that
the interface code for Robert Christgau's CG database has to be rewritten.
Thus far I've only done this for three files -- but they, at least, work,
and the other 30-40 files should be similar. The more vexing problem is
that all of my stuff assumes the ISO-Latin-1 character set, and recent
software defaults to UTF-8. I've temporarily solved this problem in some
cases, but still have a problem with the database that I need to figure
out. The better solution long-term would be to convert everything to
UTF-8, but "everything" is a lot. [PS: While working on this post, I
tried running a routine grep command on one of my files, only to have
it fail, complaining that my ISO-8859-1 file is "binary." Spent an
hour looking for workarounds, to little avail. It seems to be getting
to the point where UTF-8 is so baked into the system that we have no
other option than to adapt/adopt.]
- Until I'm confident that I have everything working locally, I'm only
doing limited updates to the servers -- mostly just poking new blog posts
(although I'll need to add some image files for this one, and I should
update the book roll). That means things like the year-to-date and music
tracking lists are stuck in pre-crash state. That means I've done the
indexing for last week's
Streamnotes locally but haven't shipped it up to the server.
No estimate on when I'll be able to update fully. End of June might
be a reasonable goal.
- I'm not feeling a lot of need for the many files I've lost, but
one exception is a spellcheck program I wrote, which I find much
more useful than standard tools like ispell. (I need to try my hand
at rewriting that.) The biggest problem is likely to be the loss of
many years of mail and my accumulated address book. I woke up one
day last week feeling bad about never getting around to responding
to kind notes from friends and (especially) strangers after my sister
died. Would be nice to hear from those people again.
- I'm putting off indefinitely the task of trying to recover the
old disks. Also to figure out what to do with the old computer carcass.
(The old Antec box is very nice, but the layout boxes the power supply
up in the bottom of the case, so it has to be vented out the back.
Nearly all power supplies these days are designed with fans pointing
up, the idea being to mount them in the top of the box, which makes
more sense give that hot air rises.)
As some point I may push a few of the more volatile music files
onto the server. (Maybe I should try writing an explicit pathname
archival tool today, since that would be useful now and again in
the near future? OK, that's done.)
A couple of notes on this week's music. Back in December, Cuneiform
announced that they wouldn't be releasing any new music -- you can
still buy their back catalog, and they've put it up on
Bandcamp so you can actually listen to it. (They've always been a
holdout from streaming services.) So I was surprised when the two new
Thumbscrew releases showed up in the mail. Looks like they have some
more digital-only releases, but these are (or soon will be) physical.
And they're so good I went back and tried to play Mary Halvorson's
other new record this year, Code Girl. I still don't like it,
the problem a singer who grates on my nerves. Vocals also undermine
the Phil Haynes double, but his No Fast Food album is possibly the
best showcase in recent memory for Dave Liebman.
The unpacking queue has thinned out considerably in the last month,
and not having time to do much research, I've resorted to using Napster's
very limited "featured" offerings. That got me to Chvrches, Gift of Gab,
Pusha T, and Kanye West. I wound up giving West's 7-track "album" an
extra play after a Facebook friend raved about it, and another stressed
how much better it got after multiple plays. I also followed links to
Meaghan Garvey, and
Lindsay Zoladz, none of which turned out to be all that positive.
I looked the album up on
Metacritic, where its average score is 67 for 20 reviews
(user score is 7.4 on 397 ratings). I wound up bumping the album
one slot, but was already regretting that before "Ghost Town"
I'm counting the 7-cut (21-23 minute) West productions as EPs.
In the past I've often lowballed EPs, not because I think they
lack value but because usually a record takes some time to make
itself felt. Still, two of my A- grades this week are EPs (both
six cuts, one a mere 21:16, the other a near-LP 28:40). Both are
terrific, but also feel pretty substantial to me. Between the
vinyl revival and the dominance of digital formats, that sort of
length range is becoming common, making labels awkward.
As for my "old music," one of the scripts I tested was the
one that prints out my grade database for a given artist. I used
the Rolling Stones as
my test case, and noticed the ungraded Black and Blue
and a few albums I've never heard. Most were available on Napster,
so I figured they'd make for easy listening while I was working on
the website. Once I caught up with the missing items, I decided to
go back and pick up the UK versions of early albums I knew from US
editions. (One thing that inspired me here was
Michael Tatum's review of Out of Our Heads -- US edition,
although I had to look that detail up. By and large, the UK editions
turned out not to be as good -- or maybe they just sounded a bit thin
(on the computer) and dated? I didn't do any rechecking. I also didn't
prepare cover images, even when they rose to A- or even A.
I imagine I'll follow similar strategies in coming weeks, and
see where it all leads me. But I'll also take a look at
Phil Overeem's latest list and see what else pops up. Played
the new Sidi Touré album while writing this, realizing (again)
there are old ones I should catch up with.
New records rated this week:
- Chvrches: Love Is Dead (2018, Glassnote): [r]: B+(*)
- Gift of Gab: Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again! (2018, Giftstribution Unlimited, EP): [r]: A-
- Phil Haynes & Free Country: 60/69: My Favorite Things (2014 , Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
- Bongwool Lee: My Singing Fingers (2016 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
- No Fast Food: Settings for Three (2016 , Corner Store Jazz): [cd]: A-
- Pusha T: Daytona (2018, GOOD/Def Jam, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Thumbscrew: Ours (2017 , Cuneiform): [cd]: A-
- Thumbscrew: Theirs (2017 , Cuneiform): [cd]: A-
- Kanye West: Ye (2018, Def Jam/GOOD Music, EP): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Ernie Krivda and Swing City: A Bright and Shining Moment (1998-2002 , Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
- Professor Rhythm: Professor 3 (1991 , Awesome Tapes From Africa, EP): [r]: A-
Old music rated this week:
- The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones [UK] (1964, Decca): [r]: A-
- The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones No. 2 [UK] (1965, Decca): [r]: B+(***)
- The Rolling Stones: Out of Our Heads [UK] (1965, Decca): [r]: A-
- The Rolling Stones: Aftermath [UK] (1966, Decca): [r]: A-
- The Rolling Stones: Got Live if You Want It! (1963-66 , Abkco): [r]: B+(***)
- The Rolling Stones: Between the Buttons [UK] (1967, Decca): [r]: A
- The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (1968 , Abkco): [r]: B+(**)
- The Rolling Stones: Made in the Shade (1969-74 , Rolling Stones): [r]: B+(**)
- The Rolling Stones: Black and Blue (1976, Rolling Stones): [r]: B+(**)
- The Rolling Stones: Still Life (American Concert 1981) (1981 , Rolling Stones/Virgin): [r]: B+(***)
- The Rolling Stones: Undercover (1983, Rolling Stones): [r]: B
- The Rolling Stones: Flashpoint (1989-90 , Rolling Stones/Virgin): [r]: B+(*)
- The Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge (1994, Virgin): [r]: B+(*)
- The Rolling Stones: Bridges to Babylon (1997, Virgin): [r]: B+(**)
- The Rolling Stones: Live Licks (2002-03 , Virgin, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda/Gianni Mimmo: Triad (Long Song)
- Satoko Fujii: This Is It! (Libra)
Ryan Maffei raved about Ye on Facebook. After replaying,
Metacritic score 67 on 25 reviews, so no matter how much you like
it P&J prospects are nil. (Janelle Monae is 89/30; of course, read
those numbers with a grain of thought -- Rolo Tomassi tops list at 92
and will be forgotten by December.) But you got me to give "ye"
another play, and I bumped it up a notch and rewrote the end of my
review. Then "Ghost Town" dragged on and on. The Kanye-produced Pusha
T is better. Gift of Gab better still.
Miscellaneous Album Notes:
- The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones [UK] (1964,
- The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones No. 2 [UK]
- The Rolling Stones: Out of Our Heads [UK] (1965, Decca):
- The Rolling Stones: Aftermath [UK] (1966, Decca):
- The Rolling Stones: Between the Buttons [UK] (1967,
Sunday, June 03, 2018
Impossible to put the usual amount of work into this weekly feature,
but filling out and posting something of a stub is at least a step back
toward normalcy, as well as something I can look back on for a timeline
to this miserable period in the nation's storied but increasingly sorry
history. The main problem is that I'm still waylaid by the crash of my
main working computer. I've restored local copies of my websites, but
the shift to a new computer, running newer software, has resulted in
massive breakage. I'm making slow but steady progress there, but this
website in particular is nowhere near stable enough for me to do my
usual update. So while I'm doing the usual work locally, the only files
I'm updating on the server are the blog posts.
A secondary problem is that my workspace has been disrupted, which
among other things leaves me facing a different (even more cluttered)
desk, using a different (and less comfortable) keyboard and mouse,
with less satisfactory lighting, and other minor nuisances. Among
other things, expect more typos: the keyboard touch is worse (although
this one is less prone to dropping 'c'), a subtle change in emacs
drops spaces where I expect to have to delete them (so I've caught
myself deleting first characters of words), and a spellcheck script
I wrote is gone and will have to be reinvented. Also note that where
I used to keep twenty-some news/opinion sites permanently open, I've
yet to re-establish the practice, nor have I looked up passwords to
the few sites I have such access to, so my survey this week will be
especially limited. I'm also running a browser without NoScript or
even an ad blocker, so we'll see how long I can stand that.
Got email from Facebook reminding me that today is Bill "Xcix"
Phillips' birthday. I usually don't bother with such notices, but
last year I did, only to find out that Bill had died a few months
earlier. So today's email reminds me that he's still dead, and
how dearly I miss him.
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: The 4 biggest political stories of the week, explained:
Puerto Rico got a credible estimate of Maria's death toll (approximately
4,600 excess deaths); Trump imposed tariffs on American allies; Roseanne
got canceled; Dinesh D'Souza got a pardon.
Other Yglesias posts:
Trump's legal memo to Robert Mueller is a recipe for tyranny.
Trump's wildly inappropriate (and possibly corrupt) jobs report tweet,
Walmart's too-good-to-be-true "$1 a day" college tuition plan, explained.
Raises the question of why not just raise wages? For a wonkier explanation,
Paul Krugman: Monopsony, Rigidity, and the Wage Puzzle.
Republicans are sowing the seeds of the next financial crisis.
Virginia's state Senate just voted to expand Medicare.
The shocking truth about the Hurricane Maria death toll is our Trump
nightmare made real:
The carnage in Puerto Rico is the most severe manifestation of Trump's
basic unfitness for the job he currently occupies, but it's far from
the only one. And the focus on his various antics has an unfortunate
tendency to detract from the basic reality that he doesn't put in the
time or the work to solve problems, when really that's the core of the
issue. If you put a telegenic demagogue in office, you will get some
choice moments of televised demagoguery. You won't get an adequate
response to a hurricane, and that means you will get a sky-high death
toll. The rest of us can only hope our luck holds up.
Yeah, but really, what is this "luck" Yglesias keeps talking about?
Branch Rickey famously said "luck is the residue of design." The design
applicable here is the Constitution and 230 years of law and precedent,
which have given the US President great but not dictatorial power.
Without this design, Trump would have done much more damage than he
actually has, but even with it he and his cronies are taking a toll,
the severity of which is only gradually becoming manifest.
The raging controversy over whether to call Trump's lies "lies,"
xplained: "It's not the word you use that matters -- it's whether
you extend him the benefit of the doubt."
Yet the troubling thing about media coverage of Trump isn't that the
press has failed to label lies as lies once they are proven to be lies.
It's that these kinds of statements continue to be taken at face value
when they are made, as if they were offered by a normal, reasonably
honest person. But Trump is not a reasonably honest person. He is
someone who flings around unconfirmed accusations and demonstrable
falsehoods with abandon -- and who does so, by his own admission,
for calculated strategic purposes.
Maureen Dowd: Obama -- Just Too Good for Us: Not my line or
take. One problem is that we (by which I mostly mean the liberal
punditocracy) spent so much effort into preëmptively congratulating
ourselves on our foresight and good nature in electing Obama, we
never bothered to consider whether we shouldn't wait until he did
some things. (Case in point: the Nobel Peace Prize.) We did expect
him to do things (good things), didn't we? And when he didn't,
shouldn't we have been at least a little bit critical? Anyone can
be naïve, but if after eight years you let the Clinton campaign
shame you for doubting anything about Obama, you've moved on to
foolishness and irrelevance. Dowd, quoting Obama adviser and new
author Ben Rhodes (The World as It Is):
The hunger for revolutionary change, the fear that some people were
being left behind in America and that no one in Washington cared,
was an animating force at the boisterous rallies for Donald Trump
and Bernie Sanders.
Yet Obama, who had surfed a boisterous wave into the Oval, ignored
the restiveness -- here and around the world. He threw his weight
behind the most status quo, elitist candidate.
"I couldn't shake the feeling that I should have seen it coming,"
Rhodes writes about the "darkness" that enveloped him when he saw the
electoral map turn red. "Because when you distilled it, stripped out
the racism and misogyny, we'd run against Hillary eight years ago with
the same message Trump had used: She's part of a corrupt establishment
that can't be trusted to change."
Norman G Finkelstein: Strong as Death: "Truth is that the Israeli
army has no answer to non-violence resistance. . . . Therefore, the
army's reaction is to open fire, in order to induce the Palestinians
to start violent actions. With these the army knows how to deal."
Note that Finkelstein has two recent books:
Method and Madness: The Hidden Story of Israel's Assaults on Gaza, and
Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance With Israel Is Coming
to an End.
Thomas Frank: Forget Trump -- populism is the cure, not the disease.
A response to two recent books attacking "populism" as a right-wing
assault on democracy: Yascha Mounk's The People vs. Democracy
and William A. Galston's Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to
Liberal Democracy. As a fellow Kansan, I've long sided with our
populist heritage, so I agree with Frank that anti-populism is rooted
in elitism, even when dressed up as an embrace of liberal democracy.
After all, isn't the point of democracy to bend government to the
will of the people?
Ed Pilkington: Trump's 'cruel' measures pushing US inequality to dangerous
level, UN warns: Just to be clear, the complaint isn't about the rich
getting even richer, but how Trump and his party are shredding what's left
(after Reagan and Clinton and Bush) of the "safety net," making the poor
more miserable and desperate.
Andrew Prokop: Why Trump hasn't tried to pardon his way out of the Mueller
probe -- yet.
Ganesh Sitaraman: Impeaching Trump: could a liberal fantasy become a
nightmare? Provocative title for a favorable book review of
Laurence Tribe/Joshua Matz: To End a Presidency: The Power of
Impeachment. My view is that impeachment is a purely political
act, so unless/until you have the power to back it up there's no
point talking about it. On the other hand, if I had a vote, and
the question was put to a vote, sure, I'd vote guilty, even if the
actual charges didn't exactly align with my own position (cf. Bill
Clinton). By the way, I highly recommend Sitaraman's book, The
Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution. I've since moved on
to start Gordon S. Wood's Empire of Liberty, and have been
pleased to find the two books in general agreement.
David Smith: How Donald Trump is weaponising the courts for political
ends. Also by Smith:
Trump goes it alone: running the White House not like a president, but
a CEO. This hook would make more sense if it was widely understood
how CEOs have evolved over the last 30-40 years. Where once CEOs were
viewed as competent general managers of vast and complex enterprises,
as their rewards have expanded tenfold relative to average employees,
they've become increasingly imperious, egotistical, and desperate given
how much "skin in the game" they have (mostly short-term bonuses and
stock options). Their obsessions with busting unions and stripping
regulations are of a piece with their insatiable power grab. On the
other hand, Trump is actually worse than a modern CEO. He's an owner,
so he's never been constrained by a board or stockholders (let alone
Harry Litman uses a different metaphor in
President Trump Thinks He Is a King . . . and not one of your
boring constitutional monarchs, either; more like the kind who
could say, "L'état, c'est moi."
Li Zhou: Sen. Gillibrand said Bill Clinton should've resigned over
Clinton disagrees. Well, he certainly should have resigned for something,
but one thing about the Clintons is that they've always put their personal
fortunes above their party and especially above the people who support that