October 2020 Notebook|
Friday, October 30, 2020
Music: Current count 34260  rated (+38), 214  unrated (-1).
I haven't been in much of a hurry to get this week's post out. (Cutoff was Thursday, Oct. 29, but didn't get the post up until Oct. 30.) I was delayed a day by Weekend Roundup. I missed two or three days of listening mid-week as I was preoccupied cooking an abbreviated version of my annual birthday dinner, so I didn't have much to show for the week anyway. I hadn't updated my Music Tracking or Metacritic files for a while, so had quite a bit of catching up to do there. I also wanted to take a pass at assembling my EOY Jazz and Non-Jazz files -- if nothing else to get a sense of whether my own grading was still historically consistent in this very abnormal year. All those things took lots of time. Besides, after the weather turned bad, I turned 70, and my massive report on last week's news fell on (evidently) deaf ears, I convinced myself no one much will miss a few days here. Plus we have extra days in October, so taking a few extra days just helps round up the monthly compendium (link above).
For the record, birthday dinner consisted of:
We tried eating in the backyard. (One reason for going with Turkish is that it always seemed like camping food. Indeed, I've cooked some over a wood fire at my late Idaho cousin's rustic cabin.) I reported on this dinner on Facebook (should be public -- for photos, here's one of the spread, and another of a plate). The leftovers have lingered as long as the gestation of this post. Laura finally finished the cake today, and I took the last four filo rolls and refried them in butter with an egg. (There may be some carrots left.)
Another factor in the delay was that I wanted to follow Weekend Roundup with some more reflective comments. I posted on Monday a few minutes after the Senate confirmed Trump's appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, but before I had seen the news reports. The vote wasn't unexpected, but it feels like the country has taken a sudden turn for the worse. Of course, it won't until she starts ruling on cases, but the curse of consciousness is that you can rationally anticipate disasters. And while that runs the risk of exaggerating the peril, I've found through long experience that my fears are usually warranted, and most of my errors were on the low side. In particular, I tend to expect people in a position of power to react rationally to reduce the damage caused by their initial delusions. One can cite instances of this happening, like how the Fed struggled to save a banking industry which in 2008 seemed hell bent on self-destruction. On the other hand, we've seen numerous instances of dysfunctional ideology tightening its grip trying to save face, as with the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there are few examples of mindless delusion taking charge as in Trump's recent campaign of defiance against the rising wave of pandemic. How disastrous Trump's course will prove depends a lot on Tuesday's election results. A very grave prospect would be lessened: if Trump loses decisively, and if Trump concedes with any measure of grace, and if Trump refrains from using his lame-duck months deliberately sabotaging the incoming administration. While I remain hopeful of the first point -- my prediction is that Trump will lose worse than any incumbent president since Herbert Hoover -- nothing in the past or current behavior of Trump and those deluded enough to follow him suggests that the transition will be peaceful, let alone smooth.
I've been wanting to say something about what I've learned about politics over the 60 years I've been following closely. I've come to the conclusions that two points are of fundamental import:
I didn't design this to support a case for voting for Biden-Harris to defeat Donald Trump, but my steadfast horror and opposition to Trump ultimately derives from these two points. Trump and his Republicans have decided that politics is the sole arbitrator of truth, and that they can impose their will on the world. This isn't some novelty that Trump invented. Karl Rove offered a clear statement back in the early "feel good" days of the Global War on Terror, when he insisted that as an Empire Americans were creating facts that others could only contemplate after the fact. The folly of their ego has become clear with their denial of climate change, which has become an article of faith with them despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But Trump's evasion and denial of the Covid-19 pandemic has an even more immediate impact: the latest (October 30) Map and Case Count shows cases up 42% (to 90,728 per day, over 9 million total) over 14 days. And while it's widely acknowledged that we've gotten better at treatment, deaths are up 16%, to 1,004 for the day and 229,239 total.[*] This is not just the consequence of bad policy based on contempt for science and, for that matter, the US Constitution's mandate that government should "provide for the comon defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty." It's what you get when a ruling clique decide that they can get away with anything by lying about it and/or blaming others.
More troubling still is the degradation of the view that the US government is just, fair, and inclusive. I hardly need to enumerate the myriad ways Trump has added to this perception, but should stress that even before 2016, the American economy had become more stratified than at any point in history. (Past peaks typically occurred just before major recessions, like 1893, 1929, and 2007, but the recovery from the latter -- rescuing banks and stocks while letting mortgages and wages dangle -- went almost exclusively to the already rich.) Moreover, thanks to lobbying and unlimited campaign funding and the political suppression of unions, power has flowed to business, and the most common source of injustice is the concentration of power. As Clinton and Obama did little (if anything) to stem this tide, Trump was able to take advantage of a widespread sense of decay, but being himself a creature wholly made by the privileges of wealth, he's done absolutely nothing to right past wrongs, and added more of his own devising. The most troublesome aspect of this has been the resurgence of racism under Trump -- early on, mostly coded against immigrants, but recently Republicans have found a target in Black Lives Matter, to the point where they actually seem to be celebrating police shooting unarmed blacks. Republicans may fantasize of repressing protests so violently they vanish from fear, but injustice eats away at the moral underpinnings of society, ultimately destroying the victors as well as the vanquished.
I had a few more political points, but will hold them off until Weekend Roundup, which starts whenever I manage to close this.
EOY lists were collected from the Year 2020 file, but I haven't gotten around to resorting them yet. One thing I noticed is that early albums ranked relatively high in the lists. That's probably an artifact of incremental list building. The current split is 54 jazz A/A-, 43 non-jazz. First pass on the lists usually splits like that, but evens out in January as I catch up with EOY lists. I was a bit worried that I was generating more A- records than is my custom, but if anything I'm a bit low. Last year's totals wound up with 77 jazz and 77 non-jazz. As February-October represents 75% of the rating year, a 12-month linear projection would expect the current list to expand to 72 jazz, 57 non-jazz.
I don't have a way to compare rating rate to same time last year, but I have 982 records rated so far this year, vs. 1252 for all of 2019. The 2020 tracking file at present lists 3667 records, vs. 5178 for 2019. Using the same time projection, I'd expect 1309 records rated this year (up 4.5%). The total listed would scale up to 4889 (down 5.6%), but I expect the number will rise instead. (Most of the list growth occurs during the EOY list period. The file will contain every record mentioned.)
Metacritic file (link above) is mostly updated through last week (based on AOTY, but not other sources), but doesn't yet include October 30 releases.
Did a brief check for recent deaths, knowing that Billy Joe Shaver (81) had passed. I gave Unshaven: Live at Smith's Olde Bar (1995) an A- in October. Great songs, cranked up a bit by a band that included his guitarist son.
One death I hadn't noticed was that of Jan Myrdal (93). Myrdal was Swedish, the son of Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, who wrote what in 1944 passed for the definitive study of racism in America: An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. His parents were big believers in America's liberal tradition, but Jan Myrdal was decidedly more radical, with an early fascination with Asia and the Chinese revolution. I read two books by him: his early memoir Confessions of a Disloyal European (1968) and Angkor: An Essay on Art and Imperialism (1970, with his wife and illustrator Gun Kessle). The latter's critique of imperialism had a huge influence on me personally. I can't recommend it too highly.
[*] As Donald Trump Jr argued: "I went through the CDC data, because I kept hearing about new infections, but I was like, 'Why aren't they talking about deaths?' Oh, because the number is almost nothing." The "nothing" number on that day: 1,004.
New records reviewed this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Cale Siler posted this remarkable pro-Trump screed:
Monday, October 26, 2020
Once again, this week's news overwhelmed my ability to round it up by Sunday night. Music Week will also be pushed back a day.
Table of contents:
Noticed in the Wichita Eagle today an obituary for Michael Hannon. I knew him when we were students at Hamilton Intermediate School in Wichita, KS. He was part of a gaggle or clique of students that I associated with in 8th and 9th grades -- most were old friends from Gardiner, but we walked south together after school until they turned east, and I jogged west and south. His father and uncle were big shots in the Wichita Police Dept., and I remember him as being fervently pro-Goldwater in 1964 (for a brief moment he steered me that way). I went to Wichita High School South for 10th grade, while everyone else I knew went to East. That left me with no friends, and after hassles from the administration, I dropped out midway that year, only to get locked up for my truancy. I returned to South for 11th grade, turned 16, and quit again. The only bright spot in that miserable years was when Michael transferred to South, and was dropped into my remedial English class. So for a couple of months, he was my only friend. Not enough to survive my exit, but I've always remembered him fondly. Looks like he graduated from South, went to college, got a master's degree, got married, had a couple of kids, worked as a "residential health director," moving to Colorado then back to Wichita. He was a week or so younger than me. Obituary says "he believed that if everyone was kind to each other the world would be a better place." He was kind to me.
I was playing Leonard Cohen's extraordinary Live in London album recently. I've heard this song many times since it originally appeared in 1992, usually finding it it quaintly ironic, but ten days before the election, I finally heard it as prophetic, with nearly every line taking on new found significance (e.g., "the cradle of the best and the worst").
Covid in the US: Latest map and case count shows, as of October 25: 8.7 million+ cases (14-day change +32%), deaths 225,357 (14-day change +12%). The third wave now appears to be above the second wave peak back in July.
This is just a sampling. I could find hundreds more, hammering away at many of the same points. Needless to say, I endorse Biden-Harris, and have already voted for them.
The Atlantic: The case against Donald Trump: "The president of the United States poses a threat to our collective existence. The choice voters face is spectacularly obvious." Reminds readers of their 2016 endorsement, then goes on:
National Nurses United: Nurses endorse Joe Biden for President!
The New York Times: Elect Joe Biden, America.
The New York Times also published: R.I.P., G.O.P.: "The Party of Lincoln had a good run. Then came Mr. Trump." Actually, the whole enterprise went rotten long before Trump, who is unique only in not bothering to pretend that Republican rule seeks only to profit from graft and is actively hostile to anyone not in their select following. Trump may even have done us a favor in exhibiting his malign public policy as sociopathic personality. Most Republicans are careful to disguise their intentions and rationalize their effects. Even Trump lies incessantly about them, but so transparently only the most foolishly gullible believe him.
The New Yorker: The New Yorker endorses a Biden presidency: "It would be a relief simply to have a President who doesn't abuse the office as a colossal grift. But a new President must also address the failures that have been festering in American life for decades."
The Philadelphia Inquirer: Pennsylvania needs Joe Biden.
Rolling Stone: Joe Biden for President.
Scientific American: Endorses Joe Biden: "We've never backed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history -- until now."
The Washington Post: Trump's America in 2024:
Oma Seddiq: Only 4 major US newspapers have endorsed Trump for reelection: The Las Vegas Review-Journal, New York Post, Colorado Springs Gazette, and the Spokesman Review. I suppose you could also count this squirrelly piece by Ross Douthat: The last temptation of NeverTrump. Pro-Trump arguments inevitably depend on massive misrepresentations of Trump's actual record, usually accompanied by outrageous, hysterical lies about Biden and the Democrats. Presumably the latter justify the former.
There was a second debate between Trump and Biden last week. Reports generally agree that Trump embarrassed himself less this time, that he continues to support very unpopular policies, barely camouflaged with an armada of lies.
Vox [Zack Beauchamp, German Lopez, Dylan Scott, Emily Stewart, Jane Coaston, Jen Kirby, Dylan Matthews]: 4 winners and 5 losers from the last Biden-Trump debate. Winners: Joe Biden; Kristen Welker; the mute button; New York. Losers: Donald Trump; Medicare-for-all; Senate Republicans; Social justice; China.
538: What went down during the final presidential debate of 2020. Typical take: "Biden was blah, Trump wasn't as bad as before." Fair and balanced?
Sasha Abramsky: Trump sinks to new depths of deceit and depravity: "His mendacity level was through the roof, and his lack of empathy was even more on display."
Mark Danner: The con he rode in on: "Why do people hardly even talk about all the car plants Donald Trump has brought to Michigan?" Huh? Danner produced a quote from a Trump book written in 1987:
Jonathan Easley: GOP pollster Luntz blasts Trump campaign as worst he's ever seen.
Matt Ford: Trump is giving America a grisly preview of a second term: "If reelected, he would likely take his exuberant penchant for corruption and vindictiveness to pornographic heights." This might be a good place to add a note. More often than not, presidents have been less effective in second terms than in first. Eisenhower and Reagan were much less vital in their second terms, partly due to health issues, partly because 6-year elections went very bad for them. GW Bush barely eked out a second term win, and was all thumbs after that, losing to Katrina and Iraq in his 5th year, losing Congress his 6th year, then blowing a hole in the economy, and winding up even more unpopular than Trump is now (or Wilson was by the end of his second term). Clinton and Obama lost Congress in their first mid-term elections, recovered enough to eek out a second term but stuck with a hostile Congress. Trump might be the exception here. For one thing, he set the bar pretty low in his first term, especially since he lost the House after 2 years. But also, he's learning how to use executive power to unilaterally implement his agenda, and as the courts are increasingly packed with Federalist Society flunkees, he's even more likely to get away with his plots and schemes. Congress will complain, and the House will probably impeach him again, but his vetoes will be sustained, and Democrats are unlikely to sabotage the economy just to spite him (as Republicans did to Obama). We'll wind up in a situation where the Constitution's vaunted "checks and balances" will have broken down, where vast executive powers that had been unwisely granted over the years will be construed to give Trump dictatorial powers, and where the courts will rubber-stamp his every wish. Given how malign Trump's agenda is, and how petty and vindictive he is himself, the results will be disastrous, and he will become even more unpopular than he already is. So while Ford paints a "grisly" future, if anything he underrates the potential for ruin.
Susan B Glasser: Trump at the debate was like America in 2020: Not winning.
Gabrielle Gurley: Florida's voter suppression obsession.
Maggie Haberman/Michael Crowley: Trump calls on Barr to 'act' against Biden before election: "The president is increasingly fixated on seeing criminal action against his political opponents."
Benjamin Hart/Olivia Nuzzi: The debate guardrails were a gift for Trump.
Dhruv Khullar: How Trump became the pro-infection candidate.
Jen Kirby/Rani Molla: Early voting in 2020 has already exceeded all of 2016's early votes: "More than 51 million people have already voted early in 2020, surpassing 2016's overall early vote total."
Ezra Klein: The fight is for democracy: "The stakes of this election are so high because the system itself is at stake." Starts by quoting Melissa Schwartzberg:
Nancy LeTourneau: Fox News may be heading towards an epic election-night showdown. Starts: "Donald Trump has made it clear that he plans to declare victory on election night. He'll do it when the returns are primarily based on in-person voting from that day." So it will be interesting to see whether early media coverage gives him any encouragement, especially Fox. My impression is that while Fox hosts and guests will say anything, Fox's polling operation is fairly honest. News organizations don't project state winners until they have data to back up their modeled expectations, and if the data doesn't confirm, or they're missing significant data, they hold back. The big one this year is how much advance voting there is, how quickly it's reported (some states count mail-in ballots that arrive several days after election day), and whether it skews differently from in-person voting. Nobody knows the answer to that now, and won't until late. Trump's big hope for an early lead comes from Indiana and Kentucky, where polls close early and counting is very fast. In 2016, I expected IN/KY to go to Trump, but was disturbed early in the evening by his margins there. Still, if his early returns there don't top 2016, he won't have much ground to claim a win on. (According to 538, Trump is +10.6 in IN, +19.2 in KY, and that's based on nationwide polling that shows Trump -9.1; if Trump can win the electoral college while finishing -4 in the popular vote, which is pretty close to the built-in bias, he'd need to win IN +16 and KY +24. The median state right now is Pennsylvania, which is Biden +5.5, suggesting that Trump actually needs to shift more voters. BTW, 538 has a video explaining some of this: Will we know the winner on election night? Pay attention to these states. This indicates that they at least have some idea of how quickly various states will report results, but their tool is fairly crude, and not equipped to, for instance, handicap the election based on actual vs. expected results in arbitrary states, like IN/KY.)
Harold Meyerson: How many self-deceptions can our President sustain? "Lincoln's successor? The environment's pal? Are there any swing voters who believe this stuff?"
German Lopez: Trump on Covid-19: "I take full responsibility. It's not my fault." With Trump, the buck never stops.
Erin Mansfield/Josh Salman/Dinah Voyles Pulver: Trump's campaign made stops nationwide. Coronavirus cases surged in his wake in at least five places.
Joel Mathis: The Trump administration has surrendered to the pandemic.
Tina Nguyen: The MAGAverse tries to summon another Clinton-FBI moment: "The ingredients are the same: a seized laptop, leaked emails. But this time MAGA adherents are sourcing the ingredients and hoping the FBI takes it up."
Timothy Noah: Lesley Stahl blew her chance to eviscerate Trump: "The 60 Minutes interview may have outraged the president, but in truth he got off easy."
Martin Pengelly: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump threaten to sue Lincoln Project: "Anti-Trump Republicans' Times Square billboards accuse advisers of showing 'indifference' to Americans suffering amid pandemic."
Ed Pilkington/Martin Pengelly: As election day nears, what final dirty tricks could Trump turn to?
Michael Scherer/Josh Dawsey: Trump bets on a 2016 replay, but faces a changed landscape.
Walter Shapiro: The righteous anger of Joe Biden: "Next to a babbling, often incomprehensible president, Biden did what he needed to do in the final debate."
Alex Shephard: In memoriam: The Trump pivot: "The president may win some points for shouting less than he did in the first debate. But don't act like he's changed."
Katie Shepherd: A Colorado landlord allegedly threatened to double rents if Biden is elected: 'If Trump wins, we all win'. Translation: Republicans are bastards and bullies, and if you don't do as you're told, they're going to punish you. Reality: if this jerk could get away with doubling rents, he'd have done it already; then threaten you again.
Matt Shuham: Trump's last hurrah was saturated with racist appeals.
Isaac Stanley-Becker/Tony Romm: Fearful calls flood election offices as Trump attacks mail-in voting, threatening participation in GOP strongholds.
Daniel Strauss: The final Trump-Biden presidential debate: five key takeaways.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: A deftly moderated debate bottles Trump.
Tom Zoellner: Trumpism ate Martha McSally's brain: "Why Arizona may be sending two Democrats to the Senate for the first time in 70 years." Ooh, I know that answer: Henry Ashurst and Carl Hayden.
Kate Aronoff: ExxonMobil's real quid pro quo with the government: "Trump suggested he could extort oil executives for campaign donations. The truth is more troubling."
Adam Cancryn/Dan Diamond: An angry Azar floats plans to oust FDA's Hahn: "Fights over vaccine standards have created an unbridgeable divide within HHS, officials said, but the White House is unlikely to approve any changes until after the election."
TJ Coles: How Trump killed 220,000 Americans: the first three months of covid. Section heds:
Josh Dawsey/Rosaline S Helderman/David A Farenthold: How Trump abandoned his pledge to 'drain the swamp'. Subheds:
Martin Longman: The curse of the Trump moneymen.
Dylan Matthews: Is Trump a fascist? 8 experts weigh in. "Call him a kleptocrat, an oligarch, a xenophobe, a racist, even an authoritarian. But he doesn't quite fit the definition of a fascist." Author surveyed Robert Paxton, Matthew Feldman, Stanley Payne, Roger Griffin, Sheri Berman, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Jason Brownlee, and Jason Stanley. FWIW, I've read relevant books by Paxton and Stanley, and I'm in the middle of one by Berman. Historians tend to get very particular about fascism, so it's hard to get them to apply the label to situations that vary in significant ways. On the other hand, anyone who grew up with deeper left-wing political roots will be highly attuned to motifs, airs, and mores redolent of fascism, because those are the warnings signs of your most dangerous enemies. To my nose, Trump reeks of fascism. I have no doubt that if you could transport Trump and/or his followers to Germany or Italy in the 1920s and 1930s they'd be totally at home with Hitler and Mussolini. Still, in America today they have to adjust their course to the very different political and historical terrain. It is, for instance, not nearly as easy to promote racism and military expansion now than it was during the heyday of European imperialism. I used to think that one difference between classic fascists and Trump was how the former's war trauma made them crave violence, but increasing numbers of Trump's followers have done just that. I don't know whether it helps anyone who isn't familiar with the history of fascism to call Trump a fascist -- a epithet that ignorant right-wingers like Jonah Goldberg and Dinesh D'Souza have stripped of all meaning -- especially when, as all eight writers show here, there are many more damning labels that easily apply to Trump.
Eyal Press: Trump's Labor Secretary is a wrecking ball aimed at workers: On Eugene Scalia, "a cunning lawyer committed to dismantling regulation, is weakening one employee protection after another."
Sean Rameswaram/Lauren Katz: A guide to the Trump administration's biggest scandals, accomplishments, and policies: A series of five podcasts looking back on the eon since Trump's inauguration.
Lisa Rein/Josh Dawsey/Toluse Olorunnipa: Trump's historic assault on the civil service was four years in the making.
David Roberts: A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the climate. Didn't the first term already do that? Don't you mean a second term would be even worse than the first one?
Jamil Smith: How Donald rump talks about black people: "The president's patronizing, white-savior talk will likely stop if he loses, and that should motivate us all.
Mary L Trump: Psychiatrists know what's wrong with my uncle. Let them tell voters. Trump's niece, author of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, is a PhD psychologist. Page led me to a Sept. 22, 2017 link by Carlos Lozada: Is Trump mentally ill? Or is America? Psychiatrists weigh in. It's a review of three books: Brandy X Lee, ed: The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Allen Frances: Twilight of American Sanity, and Kurt Andersen: Fantasyland. Lozada has a recent book, What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era, which no doubt has a chapter expanding on this book review. I've read Frances' book, where he argues that it's America that's insane. One famous definition of insanity is repeating some act in the expectation that it will turn out differently. Electing Trump to a second term would prove that case damn conclusively.
Amy Coney Barrett is now one step away from becoming a Supreme Court justice, as the Senate voted to end debate, with a vote on Monday, which looks like a foregone conclusion. Democracy may be coming to the USA, but the Federalist Society is well-positioned to stop it.
Ronald Brownstein: What the Rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett is really about: "The Republican Party wants to shield itself from the growing Democratic coalition."
Masha Gessen: The ultimate "bullshit job": "It is difficult to find a better word than 'bullshit' to describe Lindsey Graham's closing statement on the third day of Amy Coney Barrett's Senate hearings." Essay expands to cover much more, citing Hannah Arendt (who "defined ideology as a single premise taken to its logical extreme and then used to explain the past and determine the future") and Ronald Reagan's "joke" about the horror of government help, before landing on the late David Graeber's rant about "bullshit jobs." Key paragraph:
Gessen eventually returned to the hearings:
Linda Greenhouse: The Supreme Court we need.
Angus King Jr/Heather Cox Richardson: Amy Coney Barrett's judicial philosophy doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Stephanie Mencimer: Amy Coney Barrett is the least experienced Supreme Court nominee in 30 years.
Alex Shephard: Joe Biden and the return of the dreaded bipartisan commission: "The Democrat's proposed commission on court reform is an elaborate way of dodging the court-packing question. It also bodes ill for his presidency." The last big "bipartisan commission" was Simpson-Bowles, under Obama, where even the Democrat was a deficit hawk, agreeing to austerity moves that hobbled Obama's response to the recession he inherited. And sure, Obama did make significant progress at reducing the deficit, only to have Trump blow it wide open again with his tax cut. Certainly it would be nice to get a bipartisan consensus on critical issues, but the only case where effectively there is one is on America's military posture around the world, and that consensus has been bad for Americans, and has helped cripple the Democratic Party (perhaps the reason Republicans are so gung ho). One can imagine that there may be some minor reforms that both parties could agree to, like term limits for Justices, but current Republican majorities make even that unlikely (even though term limits has been a talking point for Republicans since Newt Gingrich put them in his "contract on America." But the real problem isn't something Republicans have any reason to compromise on. "Court packing" is fact, something Republicans have been working diligently at since 1970, when Nixon started nominating racists to the Supreme Court to overturn the New Deal and Brown v Board of Education. Especially since 2000, Mitch McConnell has played the Senate rules game to keep Obama nominees from being confirmed, while stocking up on Bush and Trump picks. Big wins in November could help Democrats start to roll back the damage, but with normal attrition it will take 20-30 years to restore the balance in favor of constitutional rights that some of us grew up expecting. Republicans will fight this rebalancing tooth and nail, as can already be seen with their hysterical reaction to Democratic revival of the idea of expanding the Supreme Court -- something last proposed by FDR in the 1930s, and derided then as "court-packing." I don't see anything happening on this front until Democrats win more seats, and it becomes even more obvious how out of step the Courts are with the wishes of the voters. Many of us can clearly see this coming, but since Trump won in 2016 the Courts have often stopped his most outrageous acts. Not often enough, and the trendline isn't good, but I'd venture that most people aren't aware of the problem yet. And while it's possible that the Courts will follow public opinion -- as they started to do in the late-1930s -- in which case the problem may not be as grave as we fear. I doubt it, but we need to let it play out a bit more. As in the 1930s, the threat of restructuring might help (remember "the switch in time that saved nine"?). I could even imagine putting a couple of token Republicans on a commission that winds up defending justice in America. But one that is half-controlled by the Federalist Society won't help at all.
Li Zhou: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Amy Coney Barrett's nomination -- with no Democrats present: "The committee vote on Barrett's nomination underscored Republicans' disregard for the rules."
Kate Aronoff: The socialist win in Bolivia and the new era of lithium extraction: "An apparent victory for Evol Morales's Movement Toward Socialism shows that tomorrow's green energy won't look much like the old oil empires."
Michael Arria: Trump administration set to label human rights groups 'antisemitic' for criticizing Isarel. Specifically Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam. Refers to Nahal Toosi: US weighs labeling leading human rights groups 'anti-Semitic'.
Jakob Reimann: Arms, oil and Iran -- Israel's role in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Alex Ward: The US just brokered another peace deal for Israel, this time with Sudan: "At its core, it looks like the deal is really a trade where the US gives Sudan financial help in exchange for recognizing Israel."
Mark Weisbrot: Bolivians reclaim their democracy: "The overwhelming MAS election victory is a repudiation of the racist coup regime as well as of the Trump administration and the OAS, which helped install it."
Philip Weiss: Oren warns US Jews to 'be aware' Biden will defy Israel on Palestine and Iran issues. Israel's former ambassador to the US tries to influence America's presidential election. "Israeli Jews support Trump overwhelmingly; but Oren's warning is likely falling on deaf ears in the US."
Sam Adler-Bell: How police unions bully politicians.
Elisabeth Egan: Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the presidential race and wrote a best seller: The book is called Trust, which is a key concept, especially given how Trump has destroyed trust in American political institutions -- for that matter, his deregulation of industries will likely do immense harm to the perception that we can trust companies to act responsibly.
Shirin Ghaffary/Rani Molla: Why the US government is suing Google: "The Department of Justice says the company's anti-competitive business practices harm Americans."
Jenny Gross: Far-right groups are behind most US terrorist attacks, report finds. You mean the groups with racists and guns?
Sean Illing: Trump exploited a broken press. Here's how to fix it. Interview with Jay Rosen, who says:
Umair Irfan: Colorado is fighting its largest wildfire in history. Other massive blazes are close behind. "three of the four largest fires in Colorado history have ignited since July."
Christopher Ketcham: Has the Forest Service been making wildfires worse? "The logging industry has long promoted science suggesting logging suppresses fire. A lot of recent research disagrees."
Nancy Kurshan: I was in the room where it happened: One woman's perspective on The Trial of the Chicago 7. More on the movie:
Nicholas Lemann: The Republican identity crisis after Trump. Long article, may be worth thinking about later rather than sooner, but for now not a topic I care much about. As far as I'm concerned, Republicans can shrivel up from shame and crawl into a dark hole never to be seen again, but as long as they don't, at least they'll be available as an enemy that can warm your hearts to even the most lacklustre Democrat. I think it's clear now that Democrats made a huge mistake in the 1980s when they decided that the way back to power was by appealing to business as the party of efficiency and growth. Sure, that pitch got Clinton and Obama elected president, but did little for the rest of the party. And sure, business prospered under Democrats -- much more, in fact, than it had during Republican terms -- but the Democrats failed to win over the cold hearts of the rich. After all, while Democrats helped the rich get richer, they also believed that others would also benefit. On the other hand, Republicans didn't care if their policies hurt the working poor. Since 2016, Democrats have had to rethink their assumptions, and many of the have decided that the way forward is to focus not on raising money but on inspiring votes. The better they do that, the better they deliver their promises, the more they'll control their future. Meanwhile, Republicans have given up on appealing to the majority, focusing instead on scamming the system. Maybe if they lose bad enough, they'll start to reconsider policies that people might actually vote for. But even if Trump loses, which seems very likely, don't expect Republicans to learn much soon. They'll feel cheated first, because they feel so entitled to their own cheating, and they can't even fathom the absurdity of their conceits. The bigger question is what happens to the Democrats after the election. If Biden loses, the establishment wing of the Democratic party will be discredited, and the Party will lurch hard left. If he wins, I expect Biden will restore the Clinton-Obama establishment, but with an eye to delivering enough progress leftward to keep the left from breaking into open revolt. If he can navigate the middle ground, he can be very successful, and the left will revert to being something we aspire to, rather than the core of resistance against the right. Biden can compromise with corporate interests, but one thing he cannot afford to do is to let the Trump Republicans off the hook for the many injuries and crimes they have committed. The unity and coherence of the Democratic Party is based not on shared beliefs -- other than a deep-seated belief in liberal democracy -- but on a common enemy. As Republicans are unlikely to change quickly following defeat, Biden needs to exploit memory of Trump to maintain a common front.
Steven Levitsky/Daniel Ziblatt: End minority rule: "Either we become a truly multiracial democracy or we cease to be a democracy at all."
Peter Maass: When we talk about Fox News, we need to talk about the Murdoch family too: "The Murdochs own Fox News but rarely get the scrutiny they deserve for bankrolling racism and hatred."
Alex Pareene: Liberals are losing the journalism wars: "As major media outlets erect paywalls, conservative publishers are flooding the country with free right-wing propaganda paid for by Republicans."
Kim Phillips-Fein: The metamorphosis: The making of the unequal city. Review of Lizabeth Cohen: Savings America's Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age.
John Quiggin: Too cheap to meter: "Ultra-low interest rates have fundamentally changed the arithmetic of renewable energy."
Alexander Sammon: The collapse of long-term care insurance: "Attempts to have the private market manage support and services for the elderly or people with disabilities have utterly failed."
Gene Seymour: Baseball's race problem: I soured on baseball in the 1990s, and can't even tell you who won he World Series this year (if, indeed, it has been decided), so I don't share Seymour's concerns for the future of the sport/business. But baseball did mean a lot to me from 1957 at least through the 1964 pennant, and from 1976 into the 1990s. Following a cousin, I was a NY Yankees fan, and I moved to New York in 1976 as my team regained its winning ways. But as early as I can remember, I was hugely impressed with black baseball stars (even when the only black on my favorite team was 1962 MVP Elston Howard). Three stars from the 1964 World Series died in the last few weeks: Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Whitey Ford. The St. Louis Cardinals were the last team in the National League to integrate, but black stars led them back to a pennant they hadn't competed for since 1946: the picture shows Gibson, Brock, and Curt Flood (but not Bill White). For fans of my age, the best thing that ever happened to baseball was integration.
Libby Watson: There are no good Republicans for a Biden White House: "If the best prospects he can dig up are reclamation projects like John Kasich and Meg Whitman, then just recruit Democrats."
Laura Weiss: Confronting the deep roots of violence in El Salvador: "Robert Lovato's Unforgetting explores the traumatic history of a country torn apart by wars and gangs -- and the dangers of not facing the past."
Lizzie Widdicombe: What can you do if Trump stages a coup? I doubt this will be a problem, but Trump has invited us to prepare for the worst.
PS: This is longer than any of the last five Weekend Roundups, but still only the 3rd longest in 2020.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Cooking journal. Shopped yesterday, going to Dillons (Rock/Central) and N&J. Had to go to the latter to get phyllo dough. Also picked up dinner: gyro sandwich, stuffed cabbage rolls, stuffed grape leaves, baklava. Had a relaxed evening, figuring I'd have all of Wednesday and a few hours Thursday to cook.
Things left to do Thursday, for dinner at 4:30, so not muh time after I get up:
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Music: Current count 34222  rated (+43), 215  unrated (+2).
Nominally a day late, given the late finish of Weekend Roundup. The delay pushed the rated count over 40, and contributed most of the unpacking below. Before that I had felt little urgency to break into the promo queue. I've been scrounging for things to listen to, and making short work of most of what I've found. I've heard the top 83 records in my metacritic file. Top one I haven't bothered with is Deftones: Ohms, followed by albums by Flaming Lips, Killers, Lemon Twigs, and Sorry -- a high B+ from any of those would be a big surprise. Caught up with eight Sunnyside jazz releases instead, four at B+(**), four lower.
Robert Christgau published his October 2020: Consumer Guide last week. I previously had albums by Public Enemy, Cornershop, and Dua Lipa at A-. He only concurred on PE. He rated Dramamrama, Ashley McBryde, and Dawn Oberg higher than I did. A recheck of the former suggests I wasn't paying much attention when I discarded it. His choice oldie was a compilation of early Skip James that I have at B (but Robert Santelli ranked as the 10th best blues album of all time). As I recall, the sound was atrocious. I should do some more research on him; e.g., Devil Got My Woman (1967), an A- for Christgau, number 45 for Santelli. I have a later compilation of James' 1966-68 Vanguard sides, Blues From the Delta, at A-. Meanwhile, the one I couldn't find was Hanging Tree Guitars. Well, also the Island rocksteady compilation. It's probably competitive with Trojan's Let's Do Rocksteady: The Story of Rocksteady 1966-68, an A- in my book.
One more week left in October. I'm going to cook a scaled down, socially distanced version of my annual birthday dinner this week. Did the shopping today, so I'm set to start cooking tomorrow, to serve on Wednesday. Moved it up a few days due to weather, so I'll wind up turning 70 in isolation, probably with leftovers. Nothing new this year. Turkish main dish (yogurtlu kebap), with Moroccan mezze -- struck me as a better fit than the Turkish ones -- and the traditional family birthday cake. Rated count should be down next week, as I'll spend a couple days playing golden oldies. Then it'll be time to knuckle down on Weekend Roundup. At this point, I'd just as soon cooked on the weekend and skipped the post, but weather broke the other way.
Seems like a lot of deaths last week. Among musicians: Spencer Davis, Toshinori Kondo, Jose Padilla. More HOF baseball players: Joe Morgan, after Whitey Ford (previous week).
I don't follow her, but I was pleased to see a tweet by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) detailing specs on a homebuilt composer (I added prices from Newegg, just for my curiosity):
Not specified here is a power supply, probably 850W or higher [$150+], and most importantly a motherboard ($200 or less). My latest build had considerably more RAM (128 GB), but I spent less on CPU and video card. I only bought the M.2 SSD storage device (1TB), and I've never spent on water cooling. Still, I'm impressed: you get at least twice as much bang for the buck by building your own, but most people find the task daunting. Better still if you put Linux on it, instead of wasting more $$$ on Microsoft, and more still on commercial applications software.
New records reviewed this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Grade (or other) changes:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 19, 2020
Posted this on Monday. It got too late to wrap it up on Sunday, and I hadn't finished looking for links in the usual places, let alone writing any sort of introduction. Got a late start on Saturday, after spending much of last week on two book posts: More Trump Books, and Book Roundup. Also upgraded my machine to Xubuntu 20.4, which has resulted in some breakage and emergency repairs (update removed some optional packages I rely on, and installed PHP 7.4, which broke some of my web pages -- if you notice more, please let me know). Music Week will also be delayed a day.
Table of contents:
Before we get too deep in the weeds, here are a few links that are essentially endorsements. I could collect hundreds of mainstream Biden endorsements, but these are specifically addressed to the left:
Laura and I filled out our ballots and mailed them in today. We both voted for Biden and Harris, for Barbara Bollier for Senate, Laura Lombard for the House (KS-4), Mary Ware (KS Senate), John Carmichael (KS House), and James Thompson (District 18 Judge), and other Democrats (in the races any ran for).
Of course, I urge all of you to vote, for Democrats as much as possible. It has never been more obvious that the American people need to rise up and repudiate the Republican Party and all that it stands for. I won't try to sum that up succinctly here. The reasons should be obvious from the rest of this post, and from the four years of weekly posts I've compiled as Trump Days [.odt format -- see note below]. OK, I will try one sentence: Republicans are committed to maintaining and extending the power of business elites, where some people are privileged and protected while others are consigned to relative poverty and injustice, stripped of rights and subject to violence. Donald Trump is merely the most careless and shameless Republican leader, but the conceit and ethic permeates the party, driving it to snatch power and try to lock it in perpetually, which is why democracy itself -- as Lincoln put it, "government of the people, by the people, for the people" -- is at risk this election. I really hate anything that smacks of melodrama, but this time those stakes are real. If you want to preserve the option that people might someday redirect government to establish justice and serve the people, you must vote Trump and as many Republicans as possible out of office now. Whatever faults and inadequacies Democratic Party candidates may have can be dealt with later.
Let me add that I think lots of people who vote Republican are decent and respectable people, and that I have a lot of respect for people who live their lives according to the conservative virtues of hard work and responsibility for their families and communities. I do think they've been cynically manipulated by the Party's vast propaganda network, especially to think that they're fundamentally distinct from and endangered by Democrats, liberals, and/or leftists, who differ mostly in their commitment to extending equal rights and privileges to everyone.
Note: ODT is the file format used by OpenOffice Writer, which is free software you can download and run on almost any computer you might have. The file format is public, so other non-free software like Microsoft Word (since 2007) can also read, display, and edit the files.
The Senate Judiciary Committee held its rubber-stamp hearings on Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett this week, exposing Republican Senators as the hypocrites and opportunists you surely by now recognized them to be.
Kate Aronoff: This Supreme Court was designed to kill climate policies: "Polluters helped build the court's conservative majority. Would Democratic laws stand a chance against it?"
Donald B Ayer/Alan Charles Raul: Naked Republican hypocrisy is destroying trust in Supreme Court: Reagan, Bush lawyers. Not just the Court. Pretty much every institution they touch.
Jamelle Bouie: Which Constitution is Amy Coney Barrett talking about? "Her originalism ignores the significance of the second American Revolution." I've long thought that the charm of "originalism" for judges like Scalia is that it could mean whatever you wanted it to mean.
Fabiola Cineas: The Breonna Taylor case proves that prosecutors have too much power: "Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron didn't pursue murder charges for the cops who killed Breonna Taylor. Here's how that happened." Interview with Kami Chavis.
Ryan D Doerfler/Samuel Moyn: Making the Supreme Court safe for democracy: "Beyond packing schemes, we need to diminish the high court's power."
Jeannie Suk Gersen: How would Amy Coney Barrett rule as a Supreme Court justice?
Melissa Gira Grant: Amy Coney Barrett's gentle deceptions: "The Supreme Court nominee would have us believe she's just a vessel for the law, but her rise to conservative power tells the real story."
Rebecca Kirszner Katz: Dianne Feinstein made a mess of the Barrett hearings. There is a better way.
Simon Lazarus: The dishonesty of Amy Coney Barrett's "textualist" pose.
Christopher Leonard: Charles Koch's big bet on Barrett: "For almost 50 years, the multibillionaire has been pushing for a court unfriendly to regulation of the market. He may be on the brink of victory."
Nancy LeTourneau: Dark money interests are buying the Supreme Court. People tend to think that the political struggle over the Supreme Court is bound up with culture war, but most law suits are about money, and if you look into the dark money being pumped into promoting nominees like Barrett, you'll wind up seeing a healthy return on investment for right-wing judges.
Susannah Luthi: Not just Obamacare: How Supreme Court's conservative majority could remake American health care. Or unmake, or maybe demolish is the better word. Still, there is a reason to be doubtful (or is it hopeful?): ACA was the last-ditch conservative attempt to salvage an industry which had priced itself out of reach from the vast majority of Americans. Shrinking it, ripping off bandaids like Medicaid, hurts the industry's revenues, and further reveals the system to be horribly unfair and unjust. Republicans opposed ACA not because they had a better idea, but because they realized that its inherently flawed design could be exploited for political gain. At present, Biden and the "moderate" wing of the Democratic Party are still committed to making ACA work. If the court kills it, or wrecks it to the point of ineffectiveness, Democrats will have no choice but to adopt a more viable strategy, like Medicare-for-all. And if the Court kills that too, it'll be time to get a better Supreme Court.
Josh Marshall: It's not 'court packing.' Don't be a moron and call it that.
Anna North: Why Republicans keep talking about Amy Coney Barrett's 7 kids. "Republicans are talking about Barrett's kids to make her sound empathetic." "They're also trying to paint liberals as anti-feminist."
Alex Pareene: Supreme Court justices are politicians, too: "And just like Republican politicians, the conservative justices are dedicated to preserving the right's minority rule."
David Sirota/Andrew Perez/Walker Bragman: Amy Coney Barrett is the Supreme Court justice big oil needs. Well, certainly wants. Her father was a long-time attorney for Shell Oil, which has litigation pending before the Court.
Amy Davidson Sorkin: Amy Coney Barrett's silence is an expression of extremism.
Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: pray, grin and Barrett. "What I learned watching the Amy Coney Barrett hearings: Any Supreme Court precedent ACB won't discuss is one she's willing, if not eager, to overturn." Lots more here, including an item noting that insulin costs 10 times as much in the US as the OECD average, and that almost 5,000 people have died in prisons over the last 10 years while they were still awaiting trial. Also, this item I wasn't aware of:
Trump pulled out of the second presidential debate, not because he was infected with coronavirus but because he refused to participate in a virtual town hall set up to prevent further infections. In place of the debate, both candidates held separate town halls, on different channels. The effect was widely commented on below. Trump has since been sinking in the polls, while scurrying around to "superspreader" events, his pace feverish, his dementia increasingly obvious. And as Trump has struggled, more Republicans down ballot have also slipped in the polls. Some of those races are touched on below, but I'm not all that interested into turning this column into a handicapping report.
Vox [Ella Nilsen, Zack Beauchamp, Emily Stewart, German Lopez, Dylan Scott, Jane Coaston]: 5 winners and 3 losers from the dueling Trump-Biden town halls: Winners: Joe Biden; Substance; FOMO [fear of missing out]; Savannah Guthrie; QAnon. Losers: Donald Trump; The individual mandate; Trump's purported toughness. A very rare win for a moderator.
Washington Monthly: Live blog: The Biden-Trump town halls.
Aaron Blake: Democrats' stunning fundraising.
Aaron Calvin: A desperate Trump rallies in Iowa as he cancels ads, loses ground. I don't see the quote here, but remember reading somewhere that Trump said that if he lost in November, he's never coming back to Iowa. I have trouble seeing that threat as reason to vote for him.
Chas Danner: Trump is still targeting Governor Gretchen Whitmer after foiled kidnapping plot. Also:
David Edwards: Trump Jr says dad's 'next move' is to 'break up' the FBI: 'He has to get rid of these things'. Promises, promises.
Stanley B Greenberg: How Trump is losing his base: "Focus groups with working-class and rural voters show the deep health care crisis in America, and trouble for Trump's re-election." In general, Trump has been really awful for those parts of his base, but it's pretty arbitrary how that damage has hit individuals, and even those who have suffered have to be able to imagine an alternative, amid all the Trump lies and scapegoating. Another piece:
Jeff Greenfield: Dueling town halls revealed there's no substitute for tough questions.
Ezra Klein: Biden always understood what this election is about.
Natasha Korecki/Anita Kumar: 'He's getting a bit desperate': Trump tramples government boundaries as election nears.
Andy Kroll: NBC's Trump town hall was pointless and shameful.
Lisa Lerer: 'Please like me,' Trump begged. For many women, it's way too late. And no, none of them said they wouldn't vote for a woman. More like:
Not clear to me that those are reasons for voting for Biden either, but they are reasons for not voting for Trump ever again.
Lisa Lerer/Reid J Epstein: Why these voters rejected Hillary Clinton but are backing Joe Biden.
Martin Longman: That Ukraine, New York Post story? It's a big nothingburger. More:
Dylan Matthews: Why the Trump campaign is complaining so much about NBC's Savannah Guthrie: "The Trump campaign and allies are now 'working the refs' after the president's brutal town hall."
Anna North: In 2017, women marched against Trump. Now they're marching to get rid of him. "This time the Women's March is about voting Trump out."
Frank Rich: America is tired of the Trump show. I think that will prove to be the bottom line for a critical segment of the electorate, some of whom sat out 2016 and others who figured they had nothing to lose in taking a chance on Trump. EJ Dionne once wrote a book called Why Americans Hate Politics. It wasn't as enlightening as I had hoped, but does clearly describe an impulse that many people feel -- one, quite frankly, I wish I could share. Getting rid of Trump won't make politics boring again, but it will significantly reduce the agita.
Greg Sargent: How Republicans will try to destroy a Biden presidency. This really just comes down to extortion: elect us or face the consequences, as we'd rather cripple America than let a Democrat succeed.
Walter Shapiro: The whiplash of watching two town halls from different planets: "I watched both Joe Biden and Donald Trump on Thursday night. It was like channel surfing between sanity and chaos."
Alex Shephard: NBC did Joe Biden a big favor: "By scheduling a dueling town hall, the former vice president got the perfect contrast with a raving Donald Trump."
Matthew Yglesias: The delightful boringness of Joe Biden.
This section picks up stories that don't exactly dovetail into the campaign, but deal with Trump and/or his administration over time.
Michelle Cottle: The self-dealing administration. Probably the most corrupt administration in American history. Certainly the most shameless about it.
Spencer S Hsu: Federal judge strikes down Trump plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed Americans. For background, see:
Mara Hvistendahl/Lee Fang: China's man in Washington: "Move over, Hunter Biden. Meet Eric Branstad, the China Ambassador's son who got rich in Trump's swamp."
Sonali Kolhatkar: In Trump's America, there is death before due process.
Nicole Narea: Trump's obstruction of the 2020 census, explained.
Cameron Peters: Why Trump flip-flopped on California disaster relief.
Robert J Shapiro: Trump's tax wizardry is even more sophisticated than you thought. This is a fascinating explanation of how Trump does business.
Alex Shephard: What did Carlos Lozada learn from reading 150 Trump books? "Not much!" Review of Lozada's book, What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era. I've been looking for, but haven't found, a list of those 150 books. I'm curious how they stack up against my Trump Books and More Trump Books surveys. More on Lozada:
Sheryl Gay Stolberg: White House embraces a declaration from scientists that opposes lockdowns and relies on 'herd immunity.' Document came from a libertarian think tank (American Institute for Economic Research). Article doesn't mention Sweden, where something like this was tried, and failed badly.
Philip Weiss/James North: Adelsons got a lot from Trump for $75 million -- but media won't tell you what.
Enough world news pieces this week to merit their own section.
Glenn Greenwald: Bolivians return Evo Morales's party to power one year after a US-applauded coup. Election was held on Sunday. Some other links from earlier in the week:
William Hartung: How to stuff the Middle East with weaponry.
Steve Hendrix/Ruth Eglash: Israel ordered a second lockdown in response to coronavirus resurgence. It is not going so well.
Michael Klare: A game of nuclear chicken with Russia and China.
Lili Pike: How the world's biggest emitter could be carbon neutral by 2050: "Xi Jinping wants China to get to net-zero emissions. These researchers have a plan for that."
And then there's everything else.
Patrick Blanchfield: The town that went feral: "When a group of libertarians set about scrapping their local government, chaos descended. And then the bears moved in." Town and bears are in New Hampshire. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling wrote a book about it: A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears).
David Daley: Inside the Republican plot for permanent minority rule: "How the GOP keeps cheating its way into power -- and may get away with it again in 2020." Daley is the author of the book on GOP gerrymandering: Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, and more recently, Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.
Steve Fraser: Was American history a conspiracy? Somehow I missed Fraser's book, Mongrel Firebugs and Men of Property: Capitalism and Class Conflict in American History (paperback, 2019, Verso), although I did read Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life (2006), The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (2015), and Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion (2018).
Gabrielle Gurley: Like Southwest Louisiana, FEMA is worn down.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs: Refugees who assisted the US military find the door to America slammed shut: "President Trump has reduced the flow of refugees into the country to a trickle, and even Iraqis and Afghans who risked their lives for American service members have been cut off." As someone who opposed those wars from the git-go, this doesn't bother me much, nor am I surprised: I never thought America's commitment to liberating people abroad was sincere or even serious. On the other hand, the historical rule of thumb was that colonizers and imperialists would honor commitments made to people who helped them despite widespread resistance. That is, after all, why the UK and France have substantial minorities who emigrated from their former colonies. Even the US has substantial minorities of Cubans and Vietnamese. (Anti-communist refugees proved to be an advantage for the far right. Even now, see: Will flag-waving Latinos win Florida for Trump?) But the War on Terror was never anything more than a cynical effort to demonstrate America's supposedly awesome power and use it to cower the Muslim World.
German Lopez: 2020's marijuana legalization ballot measures, explained. Full legalization is on ballots in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. South Dakota also has a medical marijuana referendum, as does Mississippi.
Zoë Richards: Man arrested in threat to kidnap and kill Wichita Mayor over mask mandate. Mayor Whipple has done a good job of listening to folks bitch about masks while guiding a series of mask mandates through the City Council (always in conflict with the Sedgwick County Commission, which has a 4-1 asshole majority). Evidently Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) has also received threats. Richards also wrote: Northam says white supremacists are taking 'marching orders' from Trump.
Nathan J Robinson/Rob Larson: Big business and its bottomless bootlickers: Review of Tyler Cowen's new book, Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero.
Dylan Scott: America's newest wave of Covid-19 cases, explained. "Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are up across the country." Trend line is up since mid-September. Kansas as set records 3-4 weeks in a row. We have friends in Massachusetts who just tested positive. There are more famous names in the news.
Brittany Shammas/Lena H Sun: How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest.
Jennifer Szalai: A undercover trip into the rageful worlds of incels and white supremacists: Review of Talia Lavin: Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy.
Matthew Yglesias: The quest to build the most diverse Cabinet in US history, explained. This is all very depressing to think about now, not least because making bad picks -- and let's face it, most of the touted candidates are pretty deeply wedged into the old status quo -- diminishes the idea of an open future. But also because Clinton tried the whole "Cabinet that looks like America" shtick, and while he met his quotas on race and sex (and whatever), he wound up with a lot of rich folk working to make the rich richer, with the "trickle down" mostly shunted off to his foundation and political machine. But even with all due skepticism, one shouldn't get too bent out of shape by these prospects. Even his most compromised picks are as much better than Trump's picks as Biden himself is better than Trump.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Upgraded main machine to Ubuntu 20.04 today. Some snags:
Had to make edits to /etc/php/7.4/apache2/php.ini:
Friday, October 16, 2020
Having pushed all the Trump books out earlier this week, here's a batch of 40 more book blurbs, plus another 110 books briefly noted -- 48 in the following section, plus 62 tacked onto main section notes. [PS: Added some books after this count. Also note that I added more Trump-related books to the previous post.]
I find this exercise useful to keep track of what the world knows -- at least, what knowledgeable people in America are saying about what concerns them. But there's also an element of nostalgia at work here. For most of my life, I visited book stores two or more times a week, spending innumerable hours poking through the shelves. I slacked off when Borders was driven out of business. Hasn't helped that Barnes & Noble has mostly turned into a toy store. Blame it on Amazon if you want, but they're my main source for these notes.
Still, I keep feeling that I'm not getting as systematic a survey as I'd like. Amazon has replaced their related suggestions with "books you may like," which are so redundant from page to page that they smell like ads. Their browsing system is even lamer, leading me at times to search for other sources -- to little avail. I keep thinking this list is rather arbitrary. In fact, I have as many book titles jotted down in my draft file, but didn't feel like writing up at the moment of discovery, and haven't taken the time to backtrack. Meanwhile, I'm including Ted Cruz, because the moment I saw the book I knew what to say.
I was figuring four times a year would be a reasonable pace, but then came up with the idea of briefly noting titles I didn't feel like writing about. That probably reduces the need to 2-3 times per year. This is the second this year (not counting the two Trump sets). Could do a third, but may not get to it.
Books from the main section I've read so far: Danielle S Allen: Our Declaration; Thomas Frank: The People, No; Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets. Just started Sheri Berman: Democracy and Dicatorship in Europe, and have Kurt Andersen: Evil Geniuses on deck. I haven't updated the archive yet. It's too big to be useful for readers, but I use it to check whether I've written on a book before. As such, I need to get it updated before working on a new installment. I've jotted down enough book titles for another post, but don't plan on writing them up until after the election.
Danielle S Allen: Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014; paperback, 2015, Liveright): A deep reading of all 1,337 words, often taking several chapters to work through a single sentence, disentangling multiple authors and printers who added their own distinct touches, the historical context, and the debates that were ultimately obscured in compromise. I've long been convinced that the only way to gain agreement is through equality, and Allen shows how this works in very specific ways.
Kurt Andersen: Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America (2020, Random House): More of a novelist and humor writer (3 and 5 books respectively -- a 1980 humor title is Tools of Power: The Elitist's Guide to the Ruthless Exploitation of Everybody and Everything) until recently, when he tried to sum up the whole of American history as Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire (2017), offers a brief recap of the 1970s and before, then surveys the many things that have gone wrong since -- I assume properly assigning blame to right-wingers who fit the title, not that there haven't been plenty more who came up a bit short in the "genius" department.
Anne Applebaum: Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (2020, Doubleday): Like Timothy Snyder, an historian who thinks her research on Eastern Europe -- e.g., Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine (2018) -- gives her the authority to comment on the rise of illiberalism and the eclipse of democracy under Republicans in America. While it can be occasionally amusing to compare Republican Party discipline to Soviet apparatchiki, it misses much, like the fundamental Communist commitment to serve the working class -- nothing like that among America's anti-democrats. Isn't it much more likely to find anti-democratic roots in American history, with its legacy of colonial rule, slavery, capitalism, and empire?
Sheri Berman: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe: From the Ancien Régime to the Present Day (2019, Oxford University Press): A broad comparative history of political systems in Western Europe -- the table of contents doesn't offer anything east of Germany and Italy, or earlier than the late 18th century, but the introduction starts earlier and looks further. Lots of recent books on current threats to democracy from would-be dictators, but few go back further than the 1930s, obscuring two essential points: the promise of democracy was to expand and equalize power, in most cases achieved only through revolution against autocracy; would-be dictators almost always sought to defend or restore autocratic power. Of course, the earlier term was aristocracy, but conservatives have proven flexible enough to stand up for any class that enjoys the privileges of wealth.
David Brooks: The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (2019, Random House): Right-wing pundit/hack, likes to exult the moral superiority of conservatives, a profession of whitewashing that's been hard to sustain since Trump became his followers' leader. This seems to have nudged him into resistance, but here he mainly tunnels into his own personal conviction of moral superiority, thinking that will protect him from the evils of his former comrades, as well as from the masses he's always dedicated himself to keeping in their place.
Lee Camp: Bullet Points and Punch Lines: The Most Important Commentary Ever Written on the Epic American Tragicomedy (paperback, 2020, PM Press). Left political commentator, has a rep as a comedian, but his chapter titles aren't very funny -- "The Pentagon Can't Account for 21 Trillion Dollars (That's Not a Typo)," "Nearly 100 Thousand Pentagon Whistleblower Complaints Have Been Silenced," "Everyone Has Fallen for Lies about Venezuela," "Trump's Miliary Drops a Bomb Every 12 Minutes, and No One Is Talking about It," etc.), and each piece comes with footnotes. Jimmy Dore (another "comedian") wrote the introduction, and Chris Hedges (a moralist with no discernible sense of humor) the foreword. They, too, have books:
Sarah Chayes: On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake (2020, Knopf): Journalist, covered the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, made herself at home there, wrote a book about how corruption undermined whatever best intentions some of the American occupiers might have had -- The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (2006) -- winding up on the US payroll as "special advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" on corruption. She moved on to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and wrote another big book on corruption: Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. Here she finally reaches the major leagues, looking at corruption in America. Table of contents suggests her interests fade out past the 1990s, which is a shame considering that Trump's worth a long book all by himself. I guess it's hard to write history while it's still happening. Much as it's hard to rebuild a country while you're still blowing it to shit.
Ellis Cose: The Short Life & Curious Death of Free Speech in America (2020, Amistad). Journalist, twelfth book though I hadn't noticed any of the earlier ones, many dealing with racism. Blurb here describes this as "about the stranglehold the rich and powerful have on free speech." This fits in with my definition of advertising as not free but very expensive speech, priced to form a barrier to entry against those who cannot afford it. I'm not sure this even gets around to advertising, as he starts with hate speech and incitement to violence, and moves on to consider how the right's "defense" of "free speech" on campus attempts to stifle it. Some other books by Cose:
Ted Cruz: One Vote Away: How a Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History (2020, Regnery): Seems like uncanny timing, but what he's really arguing is that losing a seat from the 5-4 right-wing majority would give "the left the power to curtail or even abolish the freedoms that have made our country a beacon to the world." I'd ask "what the fuck?" but he kindly enumerates the threat: "One vote preserves your right to speak freely, to bear arms, and to exercise your faith." Given that two of those are much more carefully protected by liberals, it really just comes down to the guns, doesn't it? Well, and things Cruz doesn't publicize, because they protect and further empower privileged elites, like Cruz.
David Dayen: Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power (2020, New Press): "Today, practically everything we buy, everywhere we shop, and every service we secure comes from a heavily concentrated market." This concentration generates most of the profits businesses enjoy, sucking money up to feed the ever-growing wealth of the very richest people on the planet. Focuses more on case studies than on statistical scale, but works even more inexorably there. Along with money, monopoly sucks up power, giving corporations and their masters ever more control over our lives. Dayen previously wrote Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud (paperback, 2017, New Press). Other recent books on monopoly:
By the way, searching for "monopoly" also brought up some older books (one might even say classics):
Robert Draper: To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq (2020, Penguin Press): Seems like this whole saga has been recounted many times before, but I doubt it hurts to be reminded of how arrogant and mendacious the Bush administration was to sell their plot to invade and occupy Iraq. It's all but universally agreed now that doing so was a very foolish thing -- many of us could have told you so at the time, yet the self-conception of the neocons demanded that the war be pursued and insisted that its success was inevitable (their only debates were if, or more likely when, they'd push on through Syria and Iran). Draper's previous books include Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W Bush (2007).
Thomas Frank: The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism (2020, Metropolitan Books): Like myself, a Kansas-bred author with a long interest in and sympathy for the Peoples Party, which swept into power in Kansas around 1890, and fizzled as a political party after aligning with William Jennings Bryan's Democrats in 1896. Frank covers the opposition to Bryan in 1896, and the less successful opposition to Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, in some detail, finding common threads of "anti-populism." He then jumps to the present day, finding anti-populism once more on the rise, but anomalously among the coastal liberal elites who have taken over the Democratic Party -- a group he skewered in his 2016 book Listen, Liberal: Or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?. I'm less impressed by that part of the book. I don't doubt that liberal elites have their blind spots, but the right still embodies the anti-populism of 1896 and 1936 in near pristine form, and they're still the biggest problem.
Beth Gardiner: Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution (2019, University of Chicago Press): Air quality decreased steadily in the US until laws were passed to regulate it in the 1970s -- laws which worked, although it's hard to say for how long given the Trump administration's resolve to limit enforcement of the regulations it isn't able to overturn directly. Elsewhere the situation is often worse -- in London, where the author lives, and even worse in places she visits like Poland and India. All told, "air pollution prematurely kills seven million people every year." Related:
Mary Grabar: Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America (2019, Regnery). The book Grabar attacks is Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which revisits American history with eyes open to the experiences and views of those people treated most harshly by American power -- people who have often been forgotten when respectable histories were written. Whether Zinn actually "turned a generation against America" is questionable. He certainly opened some eyes to past (and present) injustices, giving us a clearer idea of what needs to be changed in moving forward. He's also upset a lot of conservatives, who are happy with their myths.
Steven Greenhouse: Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor (2019, Knopf): Journalist, covered labor for New York Times 1983-2014, previously writing The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker (2008, Knopf), so he has a long, detailed view of the dismantling of labor power in America, but he should also be able to point out cases of increased worker militancy over the last few years, as well as the revived interest of left Democrats in unions. I'd expect there to be more books on this, but I'm having trouble finding them.
Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality (2020, Liveright): Authors have a long line of important books on the rise of the right since 2000 -- their The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care, and Retirement and How You Can Fight Back (2007) -- is one of the most insightful. This adds a few Trump ruffles, but is most important for reminding us that Trump's worst policies are long-term Republican projects, the purpose of which is to make the rich not just richer but more powerful, aiming to lock their advantages in well into the future.
Yuval Noah Harari: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018, Spiegel & Grau): Israeli historian, wrote big picture books like Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014) and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2017), takes a swing at a scattering of topics, like "Civilization" ("there is just one civilization in the world"), "Nationalism" ("global problems need global answers"), "War" ("never underestimate human stupidity"), "Ignorance" ("you know less than you think"), "Meaning" ("life is not a story").
Sarah Stewart Holland/Beth A Silvers: I Think You're Wrong (but I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations 2019, Thomas Nelson): "Sarah from the left and Beth from the right," share a podcast called Pantsuit Politics, fill a small niche for folks who don't live in any of our self-defined, self-affirmed ideological ghettoes, who run into people from warring political camps and don't want to shy away from the subject. I think that's a different concern from the so-called centrists, who are often as narrow-minded as the extremists but are sneakier, pretending to be reasonable while trying to covertly push self-serving agendas. Related:
Seth Masket: Learning From Loss: The Democrats 2016-2020 (2020, Cambridge University Press): Democratic Party strategist, sees Joe Biden's nomination as "a strategic choice by a party that had elevated electability above all other concerns." That's far from the only possible lesson that could be discerned from Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016, but it's certainly true that the Democratic left is much more united behind Biden than the right/center would have been behind Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Whether Democrats can sell Biden to marginal voters (both ones tempted to vote for Trump or some other candidate and ones who prone to skipping the vote) remains to be seen. I'm no Biden fan, but I'm not unhappy with this resolution. But it's clear to me that another lesson from 2016 is that the Democrats have to learn to deliver results, and have to make a case and a stink when Republicans block them -- the sudden backtracking of Clinton in 1993 and Obama in 2009 led to catastrophic losses in Congress, and while both remained personally popular enough to win second terms, neither delivered on more than a tiny fraction of their campaign promises. Their loss of faith was a major factor in Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016.
Stephanie Kelton: The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy (2020, Public Affairs): All about MMT, which would seem to rationalize much more extensive government deficit spending than is commonly regarded as prudent. If valid, it would provide an answer to the naysayers who always reject left proposals by declaring them too expensive. I can't say as I understand it, and will note that many Keynesian economists remain skeptical or worse (and these are people who generally believe that more deficit spending is a good thing). Related:
Ibram X Kendi: How to Be an Antiracist (2019, One World): Historian, wrote a major book Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016), which explored five Amerian figures in depth: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, WEB DuBois, and Angela Davis. This book recounts his family life, events which revealed racism in various guises, leading to a taxonomy he contrasts with "antiracism"; some examples: "assimilationist"/"segregationist," "biological," "ethnic"; also "internalized racism." This book became a belated bestseller after the George Floyd killing.
Matthew C Klein/Michael Pettis: Trade Wars Are Class Wars: How Rising Inequality Distorts the Global Economy and Threatens International Peace (2020, Yale University Press): "A provocative look at how today's trade conflicts are caused by governments promoting the interests of elites at the expense of workers." That's certainly what happens when the US negotiates trade deals: businesses lobby for advantages (especially for the collection of rents on patents and copyrights), while opposition from unions concerned about jobs and wages is casually ignored. The US has run trade deficits ever since 1970, and that turns out to be an efficient way to transfer wealth from workers/consumers to the rich, as those deficits are recycled through the banks to help prop up the assets of the rich.
Richard Kreitner: Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America's Imperfect Union (2020, Little Brown): A history going back to the colonial period of movements to unite and divide the American colonies/states. While the history is interesting, its utility to thinking about the recent Red/Blue State split is less clear. Every state has a substantial purple minority, at least partly protected by the federal government and economic and cultural union. Division would increase polarization, both within and between nascent states. One could instead have looked at secession and division around the world, where the results have most often been ominous. Aside from numerous border clashes and internal purges, the most common result is an increase in government plunder and oligarchy. One critique I've seen of this book [actually, of the David French book below] is that it's way too optimistic. This is precisely the sort of subject which inspires high hopes and bitter disappointment.
David Paul Kuhn: The Hardhat Riot: Nixon, New York City, and the Dawn of the White Working-Class Revolution (2020, Oxford University Press): About the New York City mob -- supposedly unionized construction workers -- that went berserk attacking anti-war protesters in the days after the Kent State massacre in 1970. Nixon had escalated the war in Vietnam, and was rationalizing his act by claiming support of a "silent majority" of Americans, so he was delighted to see some such group emerge from silence. Nowadays, this is seen as a pivotal event in the turn of the white working class toward Republican reaction. It did seem to have a class aspect to it, given that at this point the antiwar movement was mostly associated with middle-class (and wealthier) students at universities (although veterans were becoming increasingly prominent).
Jill Lepore: If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future (2020, Liveright): Historian, major early work was on King Philip's War in the colonial period, but she's jumped around a lot, landing here post-WWII when computers were first used for Cold War propaganda and plotting political campaigns. I read a precis of this in The New Yorker and figured it to be a stand-alone essay, so I have no idea how she expanded that to 452 pages. Except, I guess, that "the future" is one of those expansive subjects.
Evan Osnos: Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now (2020, Scribner): New Yorker writer, looks like a quickie (192 pp) but not available until a week before the election (which is to say a week before the most important fact becomes known). Even so, there is very little serious competition, despite the fact that Biden has been a shoe-in for the nomination since mid-March, after having been the front-runner for most of 2015, and was well known long before. If anything, this pathetic list suggests that who he is or what he stands for hardly matters next to the horrors of his opponent. [October 27] Other Biden books (including previous mentions*):
Dave Rubin: Don't Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason (2020, Sentinel): Author, who describes himself as "a former progressive turned classical liberal," claims to have "the most-watched show about free speech and big ideas on YouTube." But his "free thinking" is mostly borrowed from Jordan Peterson, and his received nonsense is anything but free. Rather, it supports a factless rant against an imaginary left, which is based on his failure to understand the first thing about the real left, which is that all people deserve respect and support, in a way that fairly balances individual desires with collective needs. Classical liberalism started to understand that, before falling into a hedonism that celebrated the greediest individuals as they trampled over everyone else. They flatter themselves as "free thinkers" when all they really are is self-indulgent. It's all very sad.
Michael J Sandel: The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good? (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Another look at the false promise and sordid reality of meritocracy -- the notion that people rise to their level of ability, which easily gets twisted around to rationalizing that inequality as it exists is a reflection of merit. Chris Hayes wrote a good book on this subject -- Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (2012), and there have been others, like Daniel Markovits: The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite (2019). Sandel is more of a philosopher, with previous books like Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (2009), and What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012).
Jared Yates Sexton: American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World but Failed Its People (2020, Dutton): I suppose you could say that the genius of the American political system is its ability to satisfy all special interests, as long as they aren't seen as impinging on one another (and by design they are rarely seen otherwise). This, rather than deep ideological beliefs, explains a lot of American foreign policy. Thus, the US happily does the bidding of companies in foreign countries. Conversely, interests that aren't strongly represented among Washington lobbyists have no clout, and their number includes almost everyone in the world. But sometimes, the indifference and casual cruelty of US foreign policy comes back to bite us, so maybe the system doesn't balance interests off so well after all? I think that's what the author is getting at here, but with Trump on the one hand and his neoliberal/neoconservative critics on the other, there's a lot of extra muck to wade through. But one has to conclude that the persistent practice of injustice abroad eventually leads to injustice at home.
David Shimer: Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference (2020, Knopf): Tries to put Russia's "interference" with the 2016 US election into historical context, finding that both the US and Russia have mucked each other about, and much of the rest of the world, for a long time. He gets to 100 years by citing Russia's attempt to lead Communist Parties around the world through Comintern. Not sure whether he mentions that the US (like Great Britain and a few others) sent troops to Russia in 1918 to fight against the Revolution. (He does allow that "Foreign democracies assumed the Comintern had powers it did not.") Of more concern here is the recent cyberwarfare, not least because it seems like a low-risk way to do under-handed things. Sensible leaders would negotiate agreements to reduce or end the problem. Trump and Putin aren't sensible.
Bryant Simon: The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Sory of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives (2017, New Press): The story of a fire in a chicken processing plant in Hamlet, NC (1991), killing 25 workers -- an omen that the days of the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire are returning.
Neal Simon: Contract to Unite America: Ten Reforms to Reclaim Our Republic (2020, Real Clear Publishing): Author ran as an independent for Senate from Maryland, and lost, of course. He suffers from the typical myopia of centrists: thinking the two parties are mirror opposites, and insisting there is more common ground (and no crippling differences) between them than there is. Accordingly, his ten reforms are almost purely procedural: Open Primaries Act, Educated Electorate Act ("A nonpartisan Federal Debate Commission will be created to ensure the fairness and caliber of presidential and congressional election debates"), Term Limits Constitutional Amendment, Elections Transparency Act, Campaign Finance Constitutional Amendment ("Government may distinguish between corporations and people, and Congress and the states can apply reasonable limits on campaign spending"), Ballot Access Act, Fair Districts Act, Fair Representation Act, Congressional Rules, and Creating a Culture of Unity ("We call on our next president to form a bipartisan administration, for Congress to sign a civility pledge, for Americans to participate in national service, and for our schools to revive civics education"). The reality is that American politics has become polarized around the deepest divide of the modern era: between the rich and the masses. As self-appointed agents of the rich, the Republicans have come to view democracy as a trap, which is why they feel no qualms about lying, cheating, and stealing. And as they have become successful at exploiting loopholes and inequities in law and even in the Constitution, some Democrats are realizing that they, too, have to fight dirty, even if they can justify to themselves the need to restore and preserve democracy. Related:
Roberto Sirvent/Danny Haiphong: American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News -- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (2019, Skyhorse): By "fake news" they mean propaganda, more specifically stories that were spun by apologists of power, hoping to convince people that Americans are more exceptional and more innocent than is plainly the case. I've long thought that "American exceptionalism" was a self-flattering myth wrapped around a set of trivial truths, such that you could never really pick it apart, even as it was used to justify unconscionable deeds. "American innocence" is harder to explain, no matter how far you go back or afield, so that angle poses a fat target for these authors.
Timothy Snyder: Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty From a Hospital Diary (paperback, 2020, Crown): The historian and author of On Liberty: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century got sick, and (barely) lived to write about it. Doesn't reflect well on the American health care system . . . or on American democracy, which are not unrelated.
Jim Tankersley: The Riches of This Land (2020, Public Affairs): The post-WWII economic boom built the most expansive middle class in American history, a novelty at the time, and today an increasingly distant memory. What happened? Good question, but I'm not so sure about his answer: "He begins by unraveling the real mystery of the American economy since the 1970s -- not where did the jobs go, but why haven't new and better ones been created to replace them." The secret of the middle class was never that everyone had all of the education and opportunity to get the best jobs they could. The secret was that all jobs, even menial ones, paid enough to live on. That didn't last because wages failed to keep up with inflation and productivity gains -- because workers got screwed coming and going. Of course, it's true that America was never as middle class as white folks thought, and that weakness started the slide.
Alex S Vitale: The End of Policing (paperback, 2018, Verso): This book and author got a fair amount of attention after the "defund the police" meme spread following the George Floyd murder. Matthew Yglesias wrote a review, finding Vitale's arguments not quite convincing. That's probably right in some final analysis, but unless you start to question the principles behind policing, prosecution, incarceration, etc., it's impossible to straighten out the mess we're in. For instance, I think we need more policing of spam and hacking on the Internet, but don't necessarily see jail as the solution. I looked through my books file and found just 12 references to "police" and 10 to "policing," including: Paul Butler: Chokehold: Policing Black Men (2017); Angela Davis, ed: Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment (2017); Virginia Eubanks: Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (2018); Jordan T Camp/Christina Heatherton, eds: Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (2016); James Forman Jr: Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (2017). A quick search uncovered some more (and no doubt still more will appear soon):
Isabel Wilkerson: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (2020, Random House): A book on how inequality gets preserved and locked in inherited systems passed on from generation to generation. Compares several such systems, starting with the now-banned caste system in India. Wilkerson's specialty is Afro-American history -- her major book was The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (2010) -- so it's easy enough to see how one might try to view racial inequality through the lens caste provides. The third system Wilkerson considers is the race hierarchy instituted by Nazi Germany, but the latter was short-lived and frankly genocidal, whereas the American system lasted for hundreds of years, and the Indian one for thousands. No doubt this is informative, not least when she gets personal, but doesn't it obscure at least one key point? Inequality persists even after formal caste systems are ended, at which point isn't class the more relevant concept?
Meaghan Winter: All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States (2019, Bold Type Books): Title comes from former House Speaker Tip O'Neill's slogan, which in itself doesn't make it convincing or appealing. Still, the argument that the left needs to campaign everywhere is important. It's certainly something that the right understands, not least because in a multi-tiered political system any jurisdiction they can seize can be used to throttle opposition, to prohibit change, and to consolidate power. The right is always seeking to increase its power, thereby increasing inequality and injustice. Any success they have generates resistance, which makes for fertile ground for the left to organize. Or you could look at it from the wrong end of the telescope: we've actually had Democratic presidents with no interest or success at building local parties, and they've proven ineffective and sometimes downright dangerous.
Matthew Yglesias: One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger (2020, Portfolio): Possibly the most successful pundit of the blog era, parlayed that into co-founder of Vox, which is where I get a high percentage of my Weekend Roundup articles from. Won a poll as "neoliberal shill of the year" recently, which doesn't mean all the horrors we often associate with that label, but does still indicate a strong focus on market pricing mechanisms and unbounded growth. This book expands on his posts extolling the benefits of immigration, which is how he hopes to triple the population of the United States. Why that may even be a good thing is hard to say, but evidently he gins up old clichés about keeping or making American number one, faced as it is with competitors like China and India which already have their billion people. That's a really bad reason. By the way:
Daniel Ziblatt: Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy (paperback, 2017, Cambridge University Press): Co-author, with Steven Levitsky, of How Democracies Die (2018), a book much in vogue recently as Trump has eroded and further bespoiled the system of graft and manipulation that has long passed for democracy in America. In his comparative study of the growth of democracy in Europe from 1830 to 1933, Ziblatt argues that expansion of the vote has depended more on what conservative parties decided to allow than on collective action by the middle and/or working classes. Still, don't discount fear of revolution as motivation for conservatives -- Russia is the exception that proves the rule. Another formula for disaster: when conservative parties tried to claw back aristocratic privileges, as the fascists did in the 1920s and 1930s, and the Republicans have tried to do since 1980.
Other recent books, briefly noted.
Peter Baker/Susan Glasser: The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A Baker III (2020, Doubleday): 720 pp.
Susan Berfeld: The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, JP Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism (2020, Bloomsbury).
John O Brennan: Undaunted: My Fight Against America's Enemies, at Home and Abroad (2020, Caledon Books): Obama's CIA director.
Pete Buttigieg: Trust: America's Best Chance (2020, Liveright).
Irin Carmon/Shana Knizhnik: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2015, Dey Street Books).
Alexis Cole: You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington (2020, Viking).
Andrew Cuomo: American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic (2020, Crown): New York governor.
Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class (2017; paperback, 2018, Princeton University Press).
Jeremy Dauber: Jewish Comedy: A Serious History (paperback, 2018, WW Norton).
Alan Dershowitz: The Case for Liberalism in an Age of Extremism: Or, Why I Left the Left but Can't Join the Right (2020, Hot Books).
Robin DiAngelo: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (paperback, 2018, Beacon Press).
Leonard Downie Jr: All About the Story: News, Power, Politics, and the Washington Post (2020, Public Affairs).
Rod Dreher: Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (2020, Sentinel): "Crunchy Con."
Wolfram Ellenberger: Time of the Magicians: Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger, and the Decade That Reinvented Philosophy (2020, Penguin Press).
Abdul El-Sayed: Healing Politics: A Doctor's Journey Into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic (2020, Abrams Press).
Federico Finchelstein: A Brief History of Fascist Lies (2020, University of California Press).
Stanley Fish: The First: How to Think About Hate Speech, Campus Speeh, Religious Speech, Fake News, Post-Truth, and Donald Trump (2019, Atria/One Signal).
Raúl Gallegos: Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela (2016, Potomac Books).
Barton Gellman: Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State (2020, Penguin Press).
Daniel Q Gillion: The Loud Minority: Why Protests Matter in American Democracy (2020, Princeton University Press).
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: My Own Words (paperback, 2018, Simon & Schuster).
Philip H Gordon: Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (2020, St Martin's Press).
Trey Gowdy: Doesn't Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade (2020, Crown Forum).
Ryan Grim: We've Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement (paperback, 2019, Strong Arm Press): Looks like several years of reporting, perhaps going back to the 1980s, but such early stories are constructed (or selected) with an eye to the present.
Richard Haass: The World: A Brief Introduction (2020, Penguin Press). Bush administrations diplomat, Council on Foreign Relations.
Malcolm Harris: Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials (2017, Little Brown; paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books).
John Higgs: Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century (paperback, 2015, Soft Skull Press).
Katie Hill: She Will Rise: Becoming a Warrior in the Battle for True Equality (2020, Grand Central): Elected to Congress, resigned at first hint of scandal, wrote a book.
Harvey J Kaye: Take Hold of Our History: Make America Radical Again (paperback, 2019, Zero Books).
James Kirchick: The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age (2017, Yale University Press).
Jane Kleeb: Harvest the Vote: How Democrats Can Win Again in Rural America (2020, Ecco).
Anthony T Kronman: The Assault on American Excellence (2019, Free Press).
Lawrence Lessig: They Don't Represent Us: Reclaiming Our Democracy (2019, Dey Street Books).
Verlan Lewis: Ideas of Power: The Politics of American Party Ideology Development (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).
Robert Jay Lifton: Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry (2019, New Press).
Fredrik Logevall: JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956 (2020, Random House): 816 pp.
Eric Lonergan/Mark Blyth: Angrynomics (paperback, 2020, Agenda).
HR McMaster: Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World (2020, Harper).
Jon Meacham: His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope (2020, Random House). Major biographer, with books on Jefferson, Jackson, Franklin and Winston.
Russell Muirhead/Nancy L Rosenblum: A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy (2019, Princeton University Press).
Thomas E Patterson: How America Lost Its Mind: The Assault on Reason That's Crippling Our Democracy (2019, University of Oklahoma Press).
Thomas E Patterson: Is the Republican Party Destroying Itself? And Why It Needs to Reclaim Its Conservative Ideals (paperback, 2020, independent).
Joshua L Powell: Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Acount of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America (2020, Twelve): Author was a NRA senior strategist and chief of staff to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.
Markus Prior: Hooked: How Politics Captures People's Interest (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).
Alex Ross: Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux). 784 pp.
Douglas Rushkoff: Team Human: Our Technologies, Markets, and Cultural Institutions -- Once Forces for Human Connection and Expression -- Now Isolate and Repress Us. It's Time to Remake Society Together, Not as Individual Players but as the Team We Actually Are (2019, WW Norton).
Jeffrey D Sachs: The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions (2020, Columbia University Press).
Mark Salter: The Luckiest Man: Life With John McCain (2020, Simon & Schuster): The late Senator's long-time ghostwriter.
Antonin Scalia: The Essential Scalia: On the Constitution, the Courts, and the Rule of Law (2020, Crown Forum).
Nathan Schneider: Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy (2018, Bold Type Books).
Al Sharpton: Rise Up: Confronting a Country at the Crossroads (2020, Hanover Square Press).
Vandana Shiva: Who Really Feeds the World? The Failures of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology (paperback, 2016, North Atlantic Books).
Margaret Sullivan: Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy (paperback, 2020, Columbia Global Reports): Washington Post media columnist, 105 pp.
Jennifer Taub: Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime (2020, Viking).
George F Will: The Conservative Sensibility (2018; paperback, 2020, Hachette Books).
Leandra Ruth Zarnow: Battling Bella: The Protest Politics of Bella Abzug (2019, Harvard University Press).
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
More Trump Books
Back in May, I was working on a book roundup, my first since October 2019. I found I had so many books on Trump, his administration, and the 2020 presidential campaign that I thought it best to break them out into a separate post (see: Trump Books), before proceeding to a non-Trump Book Roundup a few days later. In an effort to be comprehensive, I did two things I don't normally do: I included a list of books I had previously noted (some with new or trimmed-down blurbs), and I looked ahead to identify forthcoming books up through the election. I thought I did a pretty thorough job, but it turns out I missed a bunch of books -- especially several bestsellers. I wrote a bit about them in the blog, including a general roundup note on September 7. I promised then to catch up with my next book roundup. Turns out that once again there's enough Trump material -- including a few forthcoming books -- to warrant a separate post.
Again, this will be followed shortly with a regular book roundup. This next post will cover several significant critiques of the Trump era, albeit ones that don't obsess over Trump himself -- prime examples are: Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality, and Thomas Frank: The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism. I may look at the Democratic Party side of the election, but there doesn't seem to be much new there -- I wrote up a fairly long list in the Trump Books post, under Dan Pfeiffer: Un-Trumping America: A Plan to Make America a Democracy Again -- but I do have something written for Seth Masket: Learning From Loss: The Democrats 2016-2020. I'm thinking I might hang a list of Joe Biden books under Evan Osnos' still-forthcoming biography, but it won't be very long.
* Book added since initial posting.
Michael Anton: The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return (2020, Regnery): Publisher is all the signal you need, but here's some background: Anton wrote a famous essay calling 2016 "The Flight 93 Election," because he figured it was better to storm the cockpit and crash the plane than to let Hillary Clinton win. He explains "the stakes" here: "The Democratic Party has become the party of 'identity politics' -- and every one of those identities is defined against a unifying national heritage of patriotism, pride in America's past, and hope for a shared future. . . . Against them is a divided Republican Party. Gravely misunderstanding the opposition, old-style Republicans still seek bipartisanship and accommodation, wrongly assuming that Democrats care about playing by the tiresome old rules laid down in the Constitution and other fundamental charters of American liberty." Previous and related:
Devlin Barrett: October Surprise: How the FBI Tried to Save Itself and Crashed an Election (2020, Public Affairs): How FBI head James Comey threw the 2016 election to Donald Trump -- "a pulsating narrative of an agency seized with righteous certainty that waded into the most important political moment in the life of the nation, and has no idea how to back out with dignity."
Maria Bartiromo/James Freeman: The Cost: Trump, China, and American Revival (2020, Threshold Editions). Fox Business face, name much larger on the cover of this propaganda tract, lashing out at Trump's enemies both within government and beyond, but especially "the Chinese communist government." Conclusion: "The destruction caused by the coronavirus is the latest and greatest test for the Trump prosperity agenda." [October 27]
Bob Bauer/Jack Goldsmith: After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency (paperback, 2020, Lawfare Institute): Fifty recommendations for reforming the Presidency, most likely sensible ones especially given the fears that electing a deranged sociopath like Trump elicits. Authors have worked in the White House under Bush II and Obama.
Paul Begala: You're Fired: The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump (2020, Simon & Schuster): Chief strategist for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, ran a pro-Obama Super PAC in 2012, has co-authored two books with James Carville. Starts with a "Mea Culpa" for 2016, then a chapter on "Coronavirus," before he starts recycling his greatest hits (e.g., "It's Still the Economy, Stupid."
Tom Burgis: Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World (2020, Harper): "He follows the dirty money that is flooding the global economy, emboldening dictators, and poisoning democracies. From the Kremlin to Beijing, Harare to Riyadh, Paris to the White House," warning that "the thieves are uniting," and "the human cost will be great." Previously wrote The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth (2015).
Michael Cohen: Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J Trump (2020, Skyhorse): Given how many sensible policy reasons one can enumerate for opposing Trump, no one needs to read (much less pay for) this book. But if you want dirt, the premise here is that nobody knows more about a scumbag than another one.
Jerome R Corsi: Coup d'État: Exposing Deep State Treason and the Plan to Re-Elect President Trump (2020, Post Hill Press): Best-selling right-wing author and unindicted Roger Stone co-conspirator. Not sure how I missed this -- perhaps it seemed like a reprint of his 2018 book, Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save President Trump. His conspiracy theories have the advantage of targeting unseen forces that are every bit as troubling to the left, if not to the sort of Democrats who get security clearances. On the other hand, I've missed Corsi books in the past. Here are some:
John W Dean/Bob Altemeyer: Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers (2020, Melville House): The conservative conscience of Nixon's Watergate scandal, became an outspoken critic of GW Bush -- cf. Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W Bush (2004), Conservatives Without Conscience (2006), and Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches (2007) -- was overdue for a broadside on Trump. Probably overwhelmed.
Norman Eisen: A Case for the American People: The United States V. Donald J Trump (2020, Crown): Democrats' special impeachment counsel on the House Judiciary Committee.
Greg Geisler: The Top 300 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Vote for Donald Trump (Even if You Are a Lifelong Republican) (paperback, 2020, independent). First one reads: "Trump is an existential threat to our republic. Trump derogates our long-standing, shared beliefs that have represented who we are as a nation:" -- then enumerates 20 such beliefs, and refers to "Appendix A" for quotes. Amazon's sample doesn't stops before number 3 ("Trump commits treason . . .") is done enumerating the many ways Trump appeases "our enemy, Russia." That's not even a point I would make.
Masha Gessen: Surviving Autocracy (2020, Riverhead Books): Russian, fled to New York as her vitriol against Vladimir Putin increased, has written extensively on him and the stifling of reform politics in Russia. Attempts to draw lessons from there for dealing with Trump here, although a key early chapter is "Waiting for the Reichstag Fire" -- reminding us that autocracy (and for that matter evil) takes various forms which reinforce common assumptions. I don't think it's necessary to view Trump as a malignancy comparable to Hitler or even Putin, but it's also no accident (and really no shame) that some people do.
Jeffrey Goldberg, ed: The American Crisis: What Went Wrong. How We Recover. (paperback, 2020, Simon & Schuster). Fairly substantial (576 pp) collection of essays from The Atlantic, including a 165 page section called "The Age of Trump." There's a lot here, like a 2018 article by Ed Yong called "When the Next Plague Hits" which predicts that Trump won't handle it well.
John R Hibbing: The Securitarian Personality: What Really Motivates Trump's Base and Why It Matters for the Post-Trump Era (2020, Oxford University Press). Posits a slight but key difference between Trump supporters and the supporters of 1930s fascist parties Theodor Adorno characterized in The Authoritarian Personality. These Trumpists crave "protection for themselves, their families, and their dominant cultural group from these embodied outsider threats," while other threats "such as climate change, Covid-19, and economic inequality" hardly phase them at all. That doesn't sound so different to me. Both feel aggrieved, blame others, and seek to crush them and gain privileges thereby, with few qualms about violence -- indeed, many relish the prospect.
Harold Holzer: The Presidents vs the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media -- From the Founding Fathers to Fake News. By now there must be a whole shelf of books which pick a topic where Donald Trump is an extreme, unprecedented outlier, and show how the other 44 presidents had their own slightly checkered records. George Washington didn't like how the press treated him, but kept it to himself. John Adams had a much thinner skin. Theodor Roosevelt and John Kennedy were particularly adept at currying favor with reporters. Trump hasn't gone as far as Adams in banning unfavorable press, but he has weaponized the media in ways no one before imagined.
Stephen F Knott: The Lost Soul of the American Presidency: The Decline Into Demagoguery and the Prospects for Renewal (paperback, 2020, University of Kansas Press). Cover pictures George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Donald Trump. Jackson and Trump count among the demagogues, with Knott blaming Jefferson for "paving the way" toward Jackson. Knott, a professor at the US Naval War College, cites several presidents who "resisted pandering": Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, William Howard Taft -- note that two of those were unpopular single-term rejects.
Carlos Lozada: What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era (2020, Simon & Schuster): A Washington Post book critic surveys "some 150 volumes claiming to diagnose why Trump was elected and what his presidency reveals about our nation," and finds them "more defensive than incisive, more righteous than right." I'd like to see the reading list. (Publisher website mentions, without giving authors: Hillbilly Elegy [JD Vance]; On Tyranny [Timothy Snyder]; No Is Not Enough [Naomi Klein]; How to Be an Antiracist [Ibram X Kendi]; The Corrosion of Conservatism [Max Boot].)
Suzanne Mettler/Robert C Lieberman: Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy (2020, St Martin's Press): History, explores four threats ("political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power") through "five moments in history when democracy in the US was under siege: the 1790s, the Civil War [1850s], the Gilded Age [the 1890s], the Depression [1930s], and Watergate [1970s]." As they point out, the present is no less grave.
James A Morone: Republic of Wrath: How American Politics Turned Tribal From George Washington to Donald Trump (2020, Basic Books): Historian, focuses on key elections including most of the ones in Suzanne Mettler/Robert C Lieberman: Four Threats: The Recurring Crises in American History. Polarization is symptomatic of those crises, although the causes are rooted more in injustices that cannot be easily resolved. Last chapter gloms 1968-2020 together as "We Win, They Lose" -- politics as a zero-sum game. Shouldn't be like that.
Michael S Schmidt: Donald Trump V. the United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President (2020, Random House): A detailed history more of the steps leading up to the special counsel appointment of Robert S Mueller than of the subsequent investigation, or the later impeachment case.
Allison Stanger: Whistleblowers: Honesty in America From Washington to Trump (2019, Yale University Press): Short book, the historical period ("From the Revolution to 9/11") a mere 106 pages but helps establish that the need to expose the secretive machinations of government isn't new with "The Internet Age" (the second, shorter part, with Edward Snowden getting his own chapter). Trump is mentioned in the title but slighted in the text: it was, after all, a "whistleblower complaint" that led to his impeachment charges, and that was just one of many, beyond the even more common leaks and efforts to halt them.
Peter Strzok: Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J Trump (2020, Houghton Mifflin): FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence, 22 years with the FBI focusing on Russian espionage threats, purged for his supposed hostility to Trump.
Kevin Sullivan/Mary Jordan: Trump on Trial: The Investigation, Impeachment, Acquittal, and Aftermath (2020, Scribner): Front cover also lists Washington Post, and a "previous books" page leads with four of the newspaper's books, followed by books by Sullivan and/or Jordan. Title page adds "Steve Luxenberg, Editor." They say journalism is the first draft of history, and that's what you get here: yesterday's yellowed papers.
Kristin B Tate: The Liberal Invasion of Red State America (2020, Regnery). Curiously, she tries to have it both ways: claiming there's an exodus from blue states because Democrats have made it too expensive to live there, but also blaming those same "refugees" for making red states purplish or even blue (Colorado and New Hampshire are examples of the latter). A serious scholar could try to refine this further, but wouldn't get her book published by Regnery.
Mary L Trump: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020, Simon & Schuster): The President's niece, daughter of his older brother Fred Jr, also flaunts her PhD in psychology, which gives her a unique angle, and an insider advantage over the other shrinks who have merely imagined Trump on their couches. It's one thing to check off the boxes on mental maladies like narcissistic personality disorder, another to locate their causes in this peculiar family dynamic.
Madeleine Westerhout: Off the Record: My Dream Job at the White House, How I Lost It, and What I Learned (2020, Center Street). Former executive assistant to Trump. Not clear what her faux pas was, but even after being fired she's still sucking up to Trump.
Tim Weiner: The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia, and Political Warfare 1945-2020 (2020, Henry Holt): Author of major books on the CIA (Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA) and the FBI (Enemies: A History of the FBI). The Cold War chapters are probably old hat, succinctly told, but I have to wonder how deep he gets into the post-Soviet era, especially US efforts to rig elections in the Ukraine, and even in Russia itself (Yeltsin was not a US puppet, but various Clinton aides worked for his election).
Andrew Weissmann: Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation (2020, Random House): Lead prosecutor under Mueller, whose unredacted report still hasn't been made public.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady (2020, Gallery Books): Former aide to Mrs. Trump, "trusted adviser," and event planner, burns a friendship going back to 2003, revealing both author and subject to be as vain and tedious as you'd expect.
Bob Woodward: Rage (2020, Simon & Schuster): The exalted court reporter's second Trump book, after 2018's Fear, burned some bridges this time, especially with his February recording of a semi-coherent understanding of the coronavirus pandemic threat even before he started minimizing the threat in public, paving the way for his incompetent management -- the only sense in which he can claim to have made America "number one."
More Trump books are briefly noted below. I'm roughly dividing this into two lists: the first is by Trump/Republican partisans, which should give you an idea of how deceitful and/or deranged they can be; the other not just by opponents, but includes academics and other writers who strive to be fair, balanced, and objective. Of course, those who succeed, and retain a shred of concern for their fellows, wind up being opponents. The top section includes some of both, but they should be easy enough to sort out from the blurbs. (If you need help, I would have filed the following under propaganda: Anton, et al.; Bartiromo; Corsi; Tate; Westerhout. Several others started out in the Trump camp, or at least counted themselves as conservatives, before developing doubts.)
Trump propaganda, briefly noted:
TM Ballantyne Jr: Trump: The First 100 Days: The Assault Intensifies (paperback, 2017, Ballantyne Books).
Allum Bokhari: #Deleted: Big Tech's Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal the Election (2020, Center Street).
Dan Bongino: Follow the Money: The Shocking Deep State Connections of the Anti-Trump Cabal (2020, Post Hill Press). [October 6]
Brian Burch: A New Catholic Moment: Donald Trump and the Politics of the Common Good (paperback, 2020, independent).
*Michael R Caputo: The Ukraine Hoax: How Decades of Corruption in the Former Soviet Republic Led to Trump's Phony Impeachment (2020, Bombardier Books).
Steve Cioccolanti: President Trump's Pro-Christian Accomplishments (paperback, 2020, Discover Media).
Dan Crenshaw: Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage (2020, Twelve): A "rising star in Republican politics."
Dinesh D'Souza: United States of Socialism: Who's Behind It. Why It's Evil. How to Stop It. (2020, All Points Books).
*Tom Fitton: A Republic Under Assault: The Left's Ongoing Attack on American Freedom (2020, Threshold Editions). [October 20]
Matt Gaetz: Firebrand: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the MAGA Revolution (2020, Bombardier Books).
*Rick Gates: Wicked Game: An Insider's Story on How Trump Won, Mueller Failed, and America Lost (2020, Post Hill Press).
Sean Hannity: Live Free or Die: American (and the World) on the Brink (2020, Threshold Editions).
Mike Huckabee/Steve Feazel: The Three Cs That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution (2020, Trilogy Christian Publishing).
Jerome Hudson: 50 Things They Don't Want You to Know About Trump (paperback, 2020, Harper Collins): Entertainment editor at Breitbart.com. [October 27]
Michael Knight: President Trump and the New World Order: The Ramtha Trump Prophecy (paperback, 2017, North Star).
*Fred V Lucas: Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump (2020, Bombardier).
*Theodore Roosevelt Malloch/Felipe J Cuello: Trump's World: Geo Deus (2020, Humanix Books).
Matt Margolis: Airborne: How the Liberal Media Weaponized the Coronavirus Against Donald Trump (paperback, 2020, Bombardier Books).
Florance McKoy: What Donald Trump Means to America: A Black Woman Shares What God Shows Her About This 45th President of the United States (paperback, 2020, Impact Communications).
Devin Nunes: Countdown to Socialism (paperback, 2020, Encounter Books).
Candace Owens: Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape From the Democrat Plantation (2020, Threshold Editions).
Carter Page: Abuse and Power: How an Innocent American Was Framed in an Attempted Coup Against the President (2020, Regnery).
TJ Paine: Qanon Phenomenon: A Detailed Report on the "Storm" That Is About to Destroy the Deep State That Conspires Against the United States and on the "Great Awakening" That Will Make America Great Again! (paperback, 2020, independent).
Rand Paul: The Case Against Socialism (2019, Broadside Books).
Jeanine Pirro: Don't Lie to Me: And Stop Trying to Steal Our Freedom (2020, Center Street).
Joel B Pollak: Red November: Will the Country Vote Red for Trump or Red for Socialism? (2020, Center Street).
Phil Robertson: Jesus Politics: How to Win Back the Soul of America (2020, Thomas Nelson): Duck Dynasty dude.
Darrell Scott: Nothing to Lose: Unlikely Allies in the Struggle for a Better Black America (2020, Post Hill Press).
Robert Isaac Skidmore: Edge of the Abyss: The Usefulness of Antichrist Terminology in the Era of Donald Trump (2020, Chiron Publications).
Lee Smith: The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President (2020, Center Street).
Franko Solar: The Sky Is Falling! Blame Trump: Why Democrats Want to Impeach Donald J Trump (paperback, 2020, La Maison).
Neville Teller: Trump and the Holy Land 2016-2020: The Deal of the Century (paperback, 2020, Troubador).
Cal Thomas: America's Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers . . . and the Future of the United States (paperback, 2020, Zondervan).
Donald Trump Jr: Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats' Defense of the Indefensible (2020, Donald J Trump Jr).
Harry Turtledove/James Morrow/Cat Rambo: And the Last Trump Shall Shound: A Future History of America (paperback, 2020, Caezik).
Kendall L Walker: A Biblical Evaluation of the Morals and Ethics of Donald Trump (paperback, 2020, independent).
Other Trump-related books, briefly noted. These are not necessarily useful or interesting, but aren't obviously right-wing propaganda. My earlier post included a whole section of humor/parody books, but I didn't find more of those worth noting. (Humor has been invaluable during the last 3.75 years, but I'm not feeling it at the moment.)
Daniel Allott: On the Road in Trump's America: A Journey Into the Heart of a Divided Nation (2020, Republic). [October 20]
*Christopher F Arndt: The Right's Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound: From Hayek to Trump (paperback, 2016, Bulkington Press).
*Anthony Atamanuik/Neil Casey: American Tantrum: The Donald J Trump Presidential Archives (paperback, 2019, Harper Collins): Satire.
Isaac J Bailey: Why Didn't We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland (2020, Other Press). [October 6]
Amanuel Biedemariam: The History of the USA in Eritrea: From Franklin D Roosevelt to Barack Obama and How Donald Trump Changed the Course of History (paperback, 2020, Lulu.com).
Nina Burleigh: The Trump Women: Part of the Deal (paperback, 2020, Gallery Books).
*Geraldo Cadava: The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, From Nixon to Trump (2020, Ecco).
Zachary Callen/Philip Rocco, eds: American Political Development and the Trump Presidency (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).
SV Dáte: The Useful Idiot: How Donald Trump Killed the Republican Party With Racism and the Rest of Us With Coronavirus (paperback, 2020, independent).
*Bill Eddy: Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths: And How We Can Stop! (2019, Berrett-Koehler).
*Randolph M Feezell: The ABCs of Trump: Asshole, Bullshitter, Chauvinist, Essays on Life in Trumpworld (2020, Randolph M Feezell).
Sally Frazer: Fire & Blood, Fire & Fury: Daenerys Targaryen, Donald Trump, and the American Public's Enduring Susceptibility to Authoritarian Figures (paperback, 2020, independent).
*John Gartner: All I Ever Wanted to Know About Donald Trump I Learned From His Tweets: A Psychological Exploration of the President Via Twitter (paperback, 2017, Skyhorse).
Mark Green/Ralph Nader: Wrecking America: How Trump's Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All (paperback, 2020, Skyhorse).
*Lawrence Grossberg: Under the Cover of Chaos: Trump and the Battle for the American Right (paperback, 2018, Pluto Press).
Michael B Harrington: The Forty Year Con Game: Everything You Need to Know About Donald Trump's Threat to Democracy (paperback, 2019, Author Solutions).
Kelly Hyman: Top Ten Reasons to Dump Trump in 2020 (paperback, 2019, Strauss Consultants).
*Charlie Laderman/Brendan Simms: Donald Trump: The Making of a World View (paperback, 2017, Bloomsbury Academic).
*Yuval Levin: A Time to build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream (2020, Basic Books): AEI.
*Matt K Lewis: Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Went From the Party of Reagan to the Party of Trump (paperback, 2016, Hachette).
Janet McIntosh/Norma Mendoza-Denton, eds: Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies (paperback, 2020, Cambridge University Press).
Shannon Bow O'Brien: Donald Trump and the Kayfabe Presidency: Professional Wrestling Rhetoric in the White House
PJ O'Rourke: A Cry From the Far Middle: Dispatches From a Divided Land (2020, Atlantic Monthly Press).
Brian L Ott/Greg Dickinson: The Twitter Presidency: Donald J Trump and the Politics of White Rage (2020, Routledge).
Rodney S Patterson: Trumping the Race Card: A National Agenda, Moving Beyond Race and Racism (paperback, 2019, Learner's Group).
*Douglas E Schoen/Jessica Tarlov: America in the Age of Trump: A Bipartisan Guide (paperback, 2018, Encounter Books).
*Jennifer M Silva: We're Still Here: Pain and Politics in the Heart of America (2019, Oxford University Press).
Theda Skocpol/Caroline Tervo, eds: Upending American Politics: Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites, and Citizen Activists From the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance (paperback, 2020, Oxford University Press).
Terry Silverman: 1000 Dumbest Things Donald Trump Has Said and Done (paperback, 2020, independent).
*Scott Stedman: Real News: An Investigative Reporter Uncovers the Foundations of the Trump-Russia Conspiracy (2019, Skyhorse).
Strobe Talbott: Our Founders' Warning: The Age of Reason Meets the Age of Trump (2020, Brookings Institution Press).
Tom Telcholz: The Worst President Ever: Prominent Republican and Former Trump Administration Officials Speak Out Against Trump (paperback, 2020, independent).
Barney Warf, ed: Political Landscapes of Donald Trump (paperback, 2020, Routledge). [October 29]
Tahmina Watson: Legal Heroes in the Trump Era (2020, Tahmina Watson).
*Darrell M West: Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era (2020, Brookings Institution Press).
*Alexander Zaitchik: The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump's America (2016, Hot Books).
I might as well mention my own not-yet-book, tentatively titled The Last Days of American Empire IV: Extracts From a Notebook (.odt format, and large), which covers 2017 up to last week (more forthcoming). The title seemed more obvious as I was compiling Volume I, which covers the GW Bush years, 2001-08. It was clear from his initial overreach after 9/11/2001 that Bush was going to push the American Empire past its breaking point. Indeed, that was the one point Osama Bin Laden got right in provoking America into its Global War on Terror. Nothing since then has changed my mind, so I kept the title through Obama's presidency, covered in Volume II and Volume III, although by then the rot seemed more reflected at home, in ever increasing inequality and an increasing sense of injustice. But where Obama at least seemed to recognize problems and was intent on patching them up with as little inconvenience to the rich as possible, Trump has repeatedly blown things up, stripping away any semblance of normalcy or even rational planning. Indeed, the driving motivation in chronicling the last four years as been dumbfounded wonder at how destructive a politician could be.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Music: Current count 34182  rated (+40), 212  unrated (-5).
Let's get this over with quick. Seems like it's been a slow, annoying, frustrating week. I wanted to get a book piece done, but didn't. At the moment, I have about 20 tabs opened to possible books, and I want to get through them before I upgrade my computer software (Xubuntu 18 to 20), so I need to move on to that. I did manage to publish a batch of answers to reader questions last week. One of those questions was really just encouragement to follow through on a previous week's threat to mock up a 50-album all-time best ballot, which I sort of did.
Phil Overeem did his own ballot exercise, which is the source for the "old music" listed below. A lot of Memphis psychobilly on his list, which I'm naturally inclined to like but not revere, so my (usually one-play) grades are muted. I didn't jot down a proper checklist, so I missed some things -- mostly old albums by groups I know well from compilations (e.g., The "5" Royales). Double checking, I found two more albums I once owned but hadn't listed in my database (Drifters, George Jones), but remember well enough I feel I can assign them grades (A and A-; a better Jones comp is the earlier Cup of Loneliness, although my first pick is the career-spanning 2-CD box, The Spirit of Country: The Essential George Jones; as for the Drifters, Rhino's 1993 The Very Best of the Drifters is perfect for the 1959-64 group; the 2-CD All-Time Greatest Hits and More: 1959-1965 doesn't fall off much; and while all of the above ignore the early Drifters, Let the Boogie Roll: The Greatest Hits 1953-1958 is also solid A-, as is Clyde McPhatter's post-Drifters Deep Sea Ball: The Best of Clyde McPhatter).
I had more trouble with the various artist picks. It Came From Memphis, Volume 1 is probably the 1995 blues comp on Upstart -- Napster has a Volume 2 but not this one. I'm far less certain about Sweet Soul Music: as best I can tell, the choices are: a 1980 Atlantic (16 songs, with Arthur Conley's title hit); a 1987 J&B (17 songs, Conley again, Atlantics leaning heavy on Franklin-Redding-Pikett); a 1988 Stax (subtitle: The Stax Groups, 13 songs, most obscure); a 1992 Sire (subtitle: Voices From the Shadows, a tie-in with Peter Guralnick's book; and a 1995 K-Tel (26 songs, leads with Sam & Dave's cover, mostly great songs but scattered as far as "One Fine Day" and "Midnight at the Oasis"). My guess is that Overeem probably means the Sire, with its relatively obscure Memphis focus -- he seems to have a thing for Memphis (also for New Orleans).
Could be that some of the B+ records might kick in after a few plays. I listened to Fairport Chronicles on YouTube, which is never ideal, but I've never been that big of a fan. I've never liked the Ramones as much as many friends do, so while It's Alive was pretty good, it didn't strike me as special. If memory serves, I saw them once live, as the opening act for Iggy Pop (or was it the Clash?); either way, they were good but not that great. I'll also note that I was in a particularly bad mood when I played Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes, which didn't start to clear up until "Mack the Knife." For the record, I also have her 1960 Ella in Berlin at B+, which puts it behind a lot of superior records.
Will get back to the book post after this. Should finish catching up the Trump book draft this week. Not sure what else, other than some cooking -- red cooked ham tonight, with stir-fried bok choy; will do twice-cooked pork sooner or later this week, and have a few more things in the refrigerator that need attending -- and some yard work, while it's still nice out.
Applied for mail-in Kansas ballots, but haven't received them yet. Looks like they're being sent out later this week. It's important that all Americans vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and for all Kansans to vote for Barbara Bollier for Senate. I'm also looking forward to voting for Democrats down ballot, especially James Thompson for one of the judgeships. If you don't understand why, download the book link above start picking out random pages (there's 2,346 to choose from).
New records reviewed this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Got a late start, by which time I was so annoyed and frustrated that I merely went through the motions. Hoped to get three things done during the week: a new batch of questions and answers, including a ballot exercise for a list of all-time greatest records; a books post (not yet done); and an update to my collection of Trump-era (2017 et seq) blog posts (thought I had it done, then decided to append some earlier Trump references, which I didn't get done (for the .odt file; link will still work when I catch up; beware that it is currently 874,147 words, 2,346 pages; there is a fair amount of redundancy there, but also a lot to be outraged about). I thought the latter might be useful for trying to write an endorsement letter like I did for Kerry vs Bush in 2004. But while I thought it important to try to construct a strong logical case back then, I'm not sure that's worth the effort this year. One could enumerate hundreds or thousands of reasons why Trump should be denied a second term, but the most fundamental one is: aren't you simply embarrassed that this guy has been given any measure of constitutional power in the United States of America? And if you aren't, why? I usually make a serious effort to understand how other people think, but I can't imagine any defense of Trump. If that isn't obvious enough, download the book, and read this week's addition (not yet in the book, but coming soon).
Another possible project would be to edit those 2,346 pages down to something humanly readable. But right now, I'm not sure how much practical benefit that would offer. Or how much work I can possibly put into such a project. Election day is less than a month ago. If Biden wins, Trump will be history, and probably forgotten as quickly as GW Bush was after 2008. And if Trump wins, the future will be bleak indeed, not least because the stabilizing force of democracy will be so thoroughly discredited. Indeed, one of the most bizarre things about this election is how hard Trump is working to make sure that even if he wins, he won't have any legitimacy left to govern, because he's gone so far out of his way to discredit the entire electoral process. If you are a person with a stake in the system, you cannot afford to give him another term.
And two more obvious points: the only real way to vote Trump out is to vote for Biden-Harris -- regardless of what you think of Biden-Harris (and frankly I don't think much of either); and while Trump is loathsome and obnoxious on a personal level far and beyond his party (including his VP Pence), the real harm he has done to this country has been his promotion of mainstream Republicans -- to the judiciary, to run the bureaucracy, to let lobbyists pollute the environment and get away with predatory business practices, to make the world a much more dangerous and hateful place. Hence, you should not only vote Trump out, but take his whole Party down with him. Our future depends on it.
This week's topics are much like last week's topics:
Alex Abad-Santos: Even while sick with Covid-19, Trump sees masks as a symbol of weakness.
Julia Belluz: No, the Regeneron drug Trump received is not a Covid-19 "cure". One thing that's disturbing about Trump is how readily he likes to offer himself as a pitchman.
Troy Closson: 80-year-old is killed after asking bar patron to wear a mask.
Jahnavi Curlin: I'm a contact tracer. Trump's advice not to fear Covid-19 is dangerous. "I talk to people with Covid-19 almost every day. Trump's experience of the disease couldn't be more different from theirs."
Olivia Nuzzi: The entire presidency is a superspreading event.
Joanne Silberner: Why Covid-19 cases are surging in the UK.
Emily Stewart: The Trump-related coronavirus cases we'll never hear about.
I don't watch debates any more. At their best, you get one (or two) candidates skillfully navigating the conventional wisdom while trying to land a couple of memorable zingers. I remember Reagan-Mondale in 1984, which Mondale totally dominated on points and logic (not that I in any way enjoyed how belligerently anti-Communist he came off), but all the history books remember was Reagan's zinger ("I won't hold my opponent's inexperience against him"), plus Reagan's landslide that November. At worst, you get someone as boorish and ignorant as Donald Trump, and I've seen more than enough of him. Evidently, Pence avoided the worst by not being Trump, yet he had to tread carefully lest he offend his master, so he just tried to spin what he could, and duck the rest. He may not be as flagrantly loathsome as Trump, but his greater deliberation and cunning strike me as even worse traits. One thing the debate has done is to give us pause to reflect on his reign as VP. He has been every bit as consequential as Dick Cheney, for much the same reason: a weak, shallow, needy leader, and the opportunity to stock the upper reaches of government with his extended crony network. If he's underrated, it's because he's done all this with less fanfare than Cheney, and he's repeatedly had to prostrate and humiliate himself before Trump's overweening ego.
Vox [Emily Stewart/German Lopez/Ella Nilsen/Li Zhou/Anna North/Dylan Matthews]: 5 winners and 3 losers from the vice presidential debate: Winners: Kamala Harris; Covid-19, Boringness ("Mike Pence is boring"; "But on Wednesday night, Pence's boringness was a strength"); #KHive; The fly. Losers: Infrastructure week; Ordinary Americans impacted by Covid-19; Susan Page. Possible research subject: Has there ever been a debate where the moderator wasn't a loser?
538/Ipsos (Laura Bronner/Aaron Bycoffe/Elena Mejia/Julia Wolfe): Who won the vice presidential debate? "Harris got higher marks for her performance -- and her policies." Harris led in "popularity contest" metrics, and improved more over the debate (+6 favorability compared to +2 for Pence). Harris led favorable 51-39; unfavorable was Harris 41, Pence 53.
Matthew Cooper: Pence was pretty good. Harris was better.
Susan B Glasser: Mike Pence's Trumpian makeover.
Sarah Jones: Trump won't debate unless there's a risk of infecting Biden. "At least the CPD has blocked him from accomplishing the 21st-century equivalent of pitching a plague corpse at an enemy."
Jen Kirby: About that fly in the vice presidential debate. Needless to say, a dozen or more people I know responded by linking to videos of Wire's videos I Am the Fly -- not just because it's the most famous song about flies, but because you could imagine it as Pence's soundtrack: "I shake you down to say please/ As you accept the next dose of disease."
Eric Levitz: No one won the Pence-Harris debate. But Trump lost. "The jarringly normal debate drove home how much worse Trump is at politics than his 'generic Republican' running mate."
Martin Longman: Is Trump chickening out of more debates?
Josh Marshall: Not even close.
Terry Nguyen: Why Mike Pence's pink-looking eye caused so much speculation.
Anna North: What a Pence presidency would look like: "We've already seen a lot of what he might do."
Ella Nilsen: The second debate between Trump and Biden is canceled.
Amy Davidson Sorkin: Covid-19 at the vice-presidential debate.
Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: A fly in the ointment. Weekly column, starts with the debate (almost live-blogging), noting among other things that "in medieval art, a fly was often paintedon a liar and moral hypocrite." More substantively:
St Clair eventually moves on to other topics. He offers a table of "new Covid-19 cases in the last 7 days: Vietnam - 5, Taiwan - 9, Yemen - 10, New Zealand - 25, White House - 34." He adds, "The Trump administration hasn't delivered this many positive results since, well, ever."
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: Out-of-touch, incoherent foreign poicy on display in Harris-Pence showdown.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: A straightforward vice-presidential debate about a catastrophic presidency.
Matthew Yglesias: Mike Pence played a weak hand well.
Isaac Chotiner: How to make sense of the polls. Interview with Sean Trende, of Real Clear Politics.
Summer Concepcion: Here's how Trumpworld is rallying behind Covid-infected POTUS return to campaign trail. Spots on Larry Kudlow, Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and Ronna McDaniel.
John F Harris/Melanie Zanoma: Republicans are finally ready to diss Don: I think they're grasping at straws here. Trump will be fair game if he loses, especially dragging lots of Republicans down with him, but until then few have the mettle to disrespect him, especially given that his fans are bred to be even more vindictive than the average Republican. That there's any equivocation at all signifies a much broader fear over the election. Conversely, the only reason GOP mandarins flocked to him was when he proved himself as a miracle winner in 2016.
Nancy LeTourneau: The media is spreading Trump's lies about mail-in voting.
Nick Martin: North Carolina's labyrinthine voting nightmare: "A mix of Trumpian meddling, legal holdups, and a bureaucratic mess is putting Black voters at risk this election.
Paige Williams: Inside the Lincoln Project's war against Trump.
Andrea Bernstein: Pattern of deception: From Trump family business to grifter in chief.
Fabiola Cineas: Donald Trump is the accelerant: "A comprehensive timeline of Trump encouraging hate groups and political violence." Timeline starts in June, 2015, with details on 42 separate instances.
Steve Coll: Donald Trump's consistent unreliability on Covid, and everything else. "It is painful to reflect on the tens of thousands of lives that might have been saved if a less reality-challenged President had occupied the White House."
Tyler Cullis: The undeniable cruelty of Trump's 'maximum pressure' on Iran.
John F Harris/Daniel Lippman: Amateur hour at the Trump White House: "The coronavirus outbreak at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is just one facet of a much deeper presidential malaise."
Kevin Liptak: Trump calls in for rambling and ugly post-hospital interview.
Josh Marshall: Folks, the Executive Branch needs an audit.
Doug Palmer: Why Trump lost his battle against the trade deficit: "The monthly deficit in US goods trade with all other countries set a record high in August at more than $83 billion." Shouldn't this have been the key metric to determine whether Trump's promises on jobs and trade, and his flirtation with tariffs, been judged on? As noted here, Turmp's trade adviser Peter Navarro "predicted in 2016 [the trade gap] could be erased in one or two years." One might counter that today's results are the simple extension of longer-term trends, but you have to admit that Trump did nothing to budge them.
Dahlia Lithwick: We know exactly how Amy Coney Barrett will unravel Roe.
Tom Scocca: Amy Coney Barrett is as cynical as Trump.
Adam Wren: How Amy Coney Barrett's religious group helped shape a city: "The People of Praise isn't well-understood by outsiders, but its influence -- and social conservatism -- run deeply through this Indiana city.".
Jane Coaston: Trump's stimulus obstruction excites fiscal conservatives -- and no one else. I was going to ask why are these fiscal conservatives. The article names Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore, who've never considered the possibility that tax cuts for the rich might increase the deficit.
Ed Kilgore: Erratic Trump is all over the place on stimulus deal.
Eric Levitz: The GOP is sabotaging Trump's economy a month before election day. Here's why. "McConnell can afford to walk away from Covid relief because the Senate's partisan skew tightly limits how many seats his party can lose."
Fred Kaplan: The face of American insurgency: "The Michigan plot wasn't about Donald Trump. It goes deeper than that." I advise taking the Trump disclaimer with a bit of salt. Two of the six indicted took part in the anti-lockdown armed occupation of the Michigan State House, which may not have been directed by the White House, but was hinted at in statements both before and after the event.
Andrew Prokop: Charges announced in plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan.
Robert Snell/Melissa Nann Burke: Plans to kidnap Whitmer, overthrow government spoiled, officials say.
Fabiola Cineas: Tropical depression Delta brings heavy rain and wind to the Gulf Coast. More fair to refer to it as Hurricane Delta. It was a Category 4 in the Caribbean before crossing over the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and grew back to Category 3 in the Gulf of Mexico, before making landing in Louisiana as a Category 2.
Edward-Isaac Dovere: Hillary Clinton says she was right all along: "The biggest factors she blames for her loss -- disinformation, Vladimir Putin, and America's deep political divide -- will still be problems even if Trump loses, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee warns." I'm occasionally tempted to subscribe to The Atlantic, only to find it a bit rich for my taste. Articles like this make me glad I didn't nibble. At this point, who the fuck even cares what she thinks? Let alone thinks about herself!
Umair Irfan: California's largest wildfire on record is now a million-acre "gigafire": "The August Complex Fire in North California has now burned an area larger than Rhode Island."
Eric Levitz: Mike Lee opposes democracy -- but supports rule by 'the people'. I don't want to go too deep here, but one should point out that the objectives Lee touts as more important than democracy -- "liberty, peace, and prosperity" -- haven't actually been secured by the Republican antiversion (or perversion) of democracy. The US jails more of its citizens than any other nation, with right-wing Christians especially aggressive at denying and impeding popular rights (except, of course, gun ownership). The US has been constantly at war since 2001, and spent most of the time after 1945 cycling between hot and cold wars. Widespread prosperity has declined considerably since Reagan won in 1980, and the last two Republican presidents ended their terms with major recessions. It's easy enough to understand why Republicans like Lee don't want to let the people decide their own fates, but a superior grasp of liberty, peace, and prosperity isn't a valid reason.
Ilan Pappe: Israel's Peace Process was always a road to nowhere.
Alex Pareene: Would the GOP use Trump's Covid diagnosis to start a war? "Why hawks are determined to blame a foreign enemy for the president's health woes." I rather doubt the thesis, but since Trump not only recovered but decided getting Covid-19 was a blessing, I think we can put these worries aside. Still, it is often the case that when a crisis strikes, the hawks are first to roost -- recall Alexander ("I'm in charge here") Haig when Reagan was shot.
Vijay Prashad/John Ross: Why America's economic war on China is failing.
Zoë Richards: Graham says black people and immigrants can be successful with a caveat: They "just need to be conservative, not liberal." In other words, they need to toil obediently for the rich, eschewing any feelings of solidarity with people like themselves, or the vast majority of Americans. He cited examples, like Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley "as people of color who rose to success at least in part due to sharing that state's 'values.'"
Charlie Savage: Nicholson Baker's maddening search for the truth.
Mattathias Schwartz: The FBI team sent to 'exploit' protesters' phones in Portland.
Tuesday, October 06, 2020
Music: Current count 34142  rated (+44), 217  unrated (+3).
Late start, after Weekend Roundup chewed up Monday. The delay there was due to the Trump White House's own pandemic-in-a-microcosm. Opened the Eagle today to find a Kathleen Parker column speculating on how his brush with Covid-19 might make Trump a bit humbler, but he had already scotched that idea with his fan club drive-by, then went on to tweet that Americans have nothing to fear from Covid-19, declaring that after three days in the hospital he feels better than he has in 20 years. It just goes to show that the worst case scenario wasn't that he would die. It's that he would recover and turn into an even bigger asshole.
Indeed, his first piece of "work" since leaving the hospital was to pull the plug on a new stimulus deal: see Trump cuts off stimulus relief talks until after election, upending prospects for aid; and Trump abruptly ends stimulus talks after Fed Chair urges economic support. Jonathan Chait's view: Trump stimulus fail: Worst blunder in presidential history. Historians may debate that, but Wall Street's verdict was instantaneous: Dow drops 370, airlines hit hard.
Meanwhile, add Stephen Miller to the list of White House aides who have tested positive for Covid-19. The toll of Kayleigh McEnany aides has risen to four. There is also an unnamed White House military aide, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are all in quarantine. Dhruv Kullar, who wrote one of the most informative pieces I linked to in Weekend Roundup, wrote another piece on The recklessness of Trump's return to the White House. My impression is that doctors treated Trump so aggressively with anti-viral, steroid, and immunological treatments that they felt the need to monitor him in the hospital. If that unusual experimental treatment works, Trump may luck out and recover quickly with few of the side-effects that have plagued many survivors. On the other hand, if the disease can survive, Trump may be in for a much rougher ride. One thing that is clear is Most patients' Covid-19 care bears little resemblance to Trump's.
In other news, Hurricane Delta is heading for Louisiana. It is currently a 145 mph Category 4 storm. It may weaken a bit when it crosses over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, then strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico. before landing in Louisiana Friday night/Saturday morning.
Among recent musician deaths, Eddie Van Halen (65) has gotten the most publicity, but Johnny Nash (80) is remembered for the better song ("I Can See Clearly Now"). Others I recognize but haven't noted: Waldemar Bastos, Wayne Fontana, Trini Lopez, Helen Reddy. It's been a rough couple weeks for baseball players too, with Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Tom Seaver; also Horace Clarke and Ron Perranoski. More I didn't recognize, like pitcher Charlie Haeger (37, played 2006-10, lifetime W-L record 2-7, ERA 6.40), of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, after being named as a suspect in the shooting death of his ex-girlfriend. That would have been a tragic story some other week.
Record count includes most of Monday, so an extra day. I've been hard pressed to find things -- Phil Overeem's latest list was my most frequent guide.
Still hope to do a book post and a batch of questions and answers later this week. Lots of things wearing me down, including some yardwork that's left me sore. I did finally finish Zachary D Carter's magnificent The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Lift of John Maynard Keynes. Moving on to something much lighter: Ruth Reichl Gourmet memoir. I should dig up a cover pic for my reading file.
New records reviewed this week:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Monday, October 05, 2020
Two things first: unlike recent weeks, I didn't start collecting links until Sunday afternoon, so this will (or at least should be) shorter than the last six or so record-breaking weeks; also, because I expect several major clusters, I'm going to try something new, and sort nearly everything by subject area (with a miscellaneous at the end, which will mostly hold topics until I decide they've reached critical mass). As a Table of Contents is handy for me, the topics this week are:
I basically stopped collecting links late Sunday night, but held up posting until well into Monday so I could write some introductory remarks. Music Week will also be postposed a day this week. While I wasn't working on Weekend Roundup last week, I made some progress toward a books post. I should finish that mid-week, and may also have a music poll list, and perhaps some answers to reader questions (could use more).
Late Thursday evening I was watching Borgen. Laura had gone upstairs, but came down and told me that Trump and Melania had tested positive for Covid-19. My first reaction was to feel sorry for them -- evidently there's still some merit to the old adage about not wishing some misfortunes on your worst enemy. That was followed by considerable unease about the fate of the world. Might his illness elicit a wave of sympathy? Or maybe just forgetting of the awful things he's done, let alone the hideous person he has shown himself to be? Or maybe he dies, and Pence reaps the sympathy vote, either as a blank slate or Trump's "better angel"? (Someone believed capable of delivering on the many promises Trump bungled?) Whatever else happens, it is more imperative than ever to vote for Joe Biden and Democrats down the ticket.
I decided then not to bother collecting this week's links until the dust settled down a bit. It soon turned out that Trump is still Trump, and Republicans are still Republicans. Laura spent the next few days watching Fox News, relishing how desperate they were wrap their brains around the news, looking to spin it into their usual propaganda, and coming up with very little. (I tried googling a phrase they used to suggest that people were laughing at Trump's misfortune, but couldn't find it -- perhaps remembering it wrong.)
My own sense of perspective was helped by watching Jimmy Kimmel on Friday night, who did a nice job of expressing concern for the Trumps' health while pointing out the context in which their illness was contracted and spread. When I finally started collecting the links below, I found many pieces highly critical of Trump's attitude as well as his handling of the pandemic, including ones which assigned a fair share of blame directly on Trump. I didn't find evidence of gloating or schadenfreude (although the latter was reportedly the most looked-up word at Merriam-Webster Dictionary over the weekend).
Moments ago I heard Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) insisting that Covid-19 just isn't that dangerous, much as Trump himself has done. Today's Covid in the US death count is 209,690, with 7.4 million cases. Intelligencer has a pretty extensive news roll on Trump's Covid-19 case. The plan is to return him to the White House Monday evening, which may sound like he's out of the woods, but is not anything like you or me getting sent home from hospital.
Lest you think Trump might have learned something from the illness, here's his tweet:
Assuming he doesn't relapse, he's promising to return even more dangerous than he's been so far.
Eliza Barclay: Trump's refusal to wear a face mask is a catastrophe.
Julia Belluz: Is Trump sicker than his doctors are saying? His treatment regimen raises questions. Isn't there an old joke about doctors examining your wallet before your body? The one clear thing is that the doctors are sparing no expense in treating Trump. What's less clear is whether all that attention, especially with the experimental treatments, will help him. But even if it does, don't expect to get the same care or attention. Health care is as inequal and unfair as any other aspect of America.
Isaac Chotiner: Maggie Haberman on the fallout from Trump's hospitalization. As you probably know, Haberman covers the White House for the New York Times.
Susan B Glasser: "There is zero reason to panic": On Trump's coronavirus case and the shredded credibility of his White House: "A report from Day One after the President's diagnosis."
Jennifer Jacobs/Josh Wingrove: Trump kept regular schedule after learning close aide Hope Hicks had Covid.
Peter Kafka: Who will tell us the truth about Trump's health? "We know it won't be Trump."
Dhruv Khullar: How to understand Trump's evolving condition: "Day to day, the news can be confusing. But the treatment of COVID-19 has steps, phases, and milestones that can tells us a lot about how the President is doing." There's a lot here, but this paragraph caught my eye:
Jen Kirby: 3 of the world's most powerful Covid-19 deniers have gotten the virus: "Like Trump, at points in their tenure, the UK's Boris Johnson and Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro both downplayed the virus."
Amanda Marcotte: Trump has COVID-19: More evidence that he's always put his ego ahead of public health: "Relax -- Donny SuperSpreader can't benefit from catching a virus he has claimed affects 'virtually nobody.'"
Olivia Nuzzi/Ben Jacobs: The White House is spreading virus and lies.
Charles P Pierce: The chaos has to stop with the President's doctors: Reason I linked this is the photo. Evidently it takes 10 doctors (well, people in white lab coats) to give a confusing and probably misleading press conference on Trump's medical status.
Andrew Prokop: What happens if the president is too sick to do the job? "The 25th Amendment, explained."
Brian Resnick: Was the White House reception for Amy Coney Barrett a superspreading event?: "The event is at least a stark example of what not to do during a pandemic."
Brian Resnick/Julia Belluz: How the White House became a coronavirus breeding ground.
Dylan Scott: While Trump gets the best health care in the world, he wants to eliminate coverage for millions: "Trump's positive coronavirus test underscores the stakes of his fight against Obamacare." I'm not so sure about "the best" but he's certainly getting the most expensive health care in the world.
Dylan Scott/Christina Animashaun: Covid-19's stunningly unequal death toll in America, in one chart. "Black Americans are dying at twice the rate of white Americans."
Peter Weber: The October Surprise nobody wanted.
Richard Wolfe: We should wish Trump well. But he's been astoundingly irresponsible at every turn. But isn't blaming people for the consequences of poor lifestyle choices something conservatives do?
Patricia Kelly Yeo: COVID-positive Trump ignores CDC advise to take joyride, with grim Secret Service agents in tow: "The president left Walter Reed's presidential suite in a motorcade to wave to supporters, potentially exposing several Secret Service agents to the coronavirus." And yes, there are pictures. Wasn't that the whole point? By the way, this is another instance of how Trump is getting special treatment. Who else sick enough to be in hospital would be allowed a temporary pass for a publicity appearance? More:
Matthew Yglesias: Trump has consistently mocked adherence to public health guidelines.
The first debate between Trump and Biden was held on Tuesday, moderated by Chris Wallace. It was by all accounts a pretty ugly affair.
Vox (Matthew Yglesias, German Lopez, Alex Ward, Li Zhou, Zack Beauchamp): 3 winners and 4 losers from the 2020 presidential debate. Format rules evidently prevent them from scoring it 7-0 Biden, so they sorted it by issue: Winners: Cross-talk and malarkey; China; Speaking directly to the American people. Losers: The "Biden has dementia" theory; Racial justice; Chris Wallace; America's safety. Yglesias followed up with Exclusive poll: Biden won the debate convincingly.
Fabiola Cineas: Trump was asked to denounce white supremacy. He wouldn't.
Matt Ford: Trump never answered the debate's most important question: "Let there be no 'both-sidesing' of the primary cause of American anxiety."
Ezra Klein: Joe Biden's most surprising, and possibly important, answer of the debate: "Biden disavowed a lot of ambitious progressive policies on Tuesday. But there were two he refused to reject." He refused to commit on ending the Senate filibuster or "packing the Court," saying "Whatever position I take on that, that will become the issue."
Robert Kuttner: Biden: Notes for next time.
Harold Meyerson: Four more years of this jerk? "Trump does his re-election campaign no favors."
John Nichols: Joe Biden should propose a $75 tax credit tonight -- then drop the mic: This is the week's dumbest piece of debate advice. Why $750? Just so Trump can reduce his tax burden to $0? While a lot of people could use a tax credit, pegging it to a number that Trump somehow hit on twice is meaningless outside of a few twitter circles. And drop the mic? Who even knows what that means? QED is more recognizable. Plus having a 77-year-old drop a microphone may suggest something other than a definitive dis.
Aaron Rupar: 3 debate moments that showed how unsuited Trump is for the presidency: "Don't let Trump's debate bullying distract you from his ignorance and malevolence."
Dylan Scott: If Trump wins, 20 million people could lose health insurance. If Biden wins, 25 million could gain it. "The enormous stakes for Americans' health insurance in the 2020 election, explained."
Steven Waldman: Actually, it was a good debate. Seriously.
Most of this week's campaign stories were tied to topics above, but a few slipped into this section, as did the dystopian speculation about election shenanigans and what happens as and after the ballots are counted. I've generally been avoiding stories on polling, also on down-ballot races (even the very important battle over the Senate). I did flag one piece on the Kansas senatorial race, because it's rare a local race from my home state gets national attention. It also looks like the Senate races in Georgia and South Carolina are tightening up. Also included the bizarre Brad Parscale story here. I'm surprised there's not much more on it, as it suggests unplumbed depths of dementia and violence in the campaign. Also note that Parscale's replacement as head of the Trump campaign, Bill Stepien, is on the list of White House Covid-19 victims. Trump will have no shortage of people to blame for losing this year.
Jane Coaston: The Proud Boys, explained: "The far-right street fighting group has embraced violence -- and Donald Trump." More on Proud Boys:
Eric Cortellessa: Republicans are slowing down mailed-in vote counts in key swing states.
David Dayen: The winter of our discontent: "Projecting the 78 harrowing days after the election: "This is a horror story."
Constance Grady: The bizarrely aggressive rhetoric of Trump's fundraising emails, explained: "Rhetoric scholars explain why Trump's campaign emails feel like someone is yelling at you."
Charlotte Klein: Texas Governor orders ballot drop-off locations closed across state.
Nancy LeTourneau: This woman could be the first Democratic Senator from Kansas since 1932. She means 1938: Democrat George McGill was elected to finish a term in 1930, then re-elected to a full term in 1932. Barbara Bollier is running for an open seat being vacated by Pat Roberts, who nearly lost to an independent six years ago. She's an ex-Republican, which plays well in Kansas, a woman (Nancy Kassebaum won three Senate terms), has quite a bit of money, and is running against Roger Marshall (like Roberts, an agribusiness shill from Western Kansas).
Walter Shapiro: Biden should be worried: "Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis has scrambled the presidential race irrevocably." Everyone's worried, but the spread between Trump's best-ever and worst-ever days is about four points, so the main thing Biden has to be worried about is doing something stupid, and even then we're talking about doing something stupider than Trump has already done.
Gabriel Sherman: "The family is worried Brad will start talking": Trumpworld panics over debate fiasco as campaign turmoil mounts: Any other week this story would have been huge, as Trump's digital guru and recently deposed campaign manager staged a public meltdown, threatening to kill himself, before he was subdued and carted off by police.
More on Parscale:
Last week's big New York Times exposé on The President's taxes continued to produce revelations and reaction. "Lock him up" may not yet be a campaign chant, but is on the minds of more than a few prosecutors.
Susanne Craig/Mike McIntire/Russ Buettner: Trump engineered a sudden windfall in 2016 as campaign funds dwindled. "Tax records expose more than $21 million in highly unusual payments from the Las Vegas hotel Donald Trump owns with Phil Ruffin, routed through other Trump companies and paid out in cash."
Helena Bottemiller Evich: Trump requires food aid boxes to come with a letter from him: "'In my 30 years of doing this work, I've never seen something this egregious,' one food bank director said."
Molly Jong-Fast: Donald Junior's Hunter Biden obsession is creepy, and telling.
Casey Michel: Ivanka Trump's starring role in her father's financial troubles: "If the president's tax shenanigans land him afoul of the law, the first daughter could go down with him."
Anna North: The Melania tapes bust the "Free Melania" myth: "Turns out the first lady is a lot like her husband."
Joshua Partlow/Jonathan O'Connell/David A Fahrenthold: Trump got a $21 million tax break for saving the forest outside his NY mansion. Now the deal is under investigation.
Luke Savage: Attacking Trump as a "fake billionaire" is a dead end: "The real scandal isn't that Donald Trump is secretly poor -- it's that our system let such an obvious fraud get so rich."
Matthew Yglesias: Trump could be in a lot of legal hot water if he loses the election: "The presidency shields him from charges of tax fraud, campaign finance violations, obstruction, and more." Details a long list of just the most obvious potential charges and liabilities, concluding:
Ed Yong: The metaphors of strength that Trump and others use are making the pandemic worse. You may recall that early in the pandemic Trump was declaring the coronavirus as "the unseen enemy" and dubbing himself a "war president."
Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is still up in the air, as Republicans in the Senate plot to confirm her before the election. Although the biggest twist this week was that a promotional meet and greet for her looms large in the White House Covid-19 cluster outbreak. Also a few other stories relating to justice and not.
Erwin Chemerinsky: The Court: How did we get here and what will it mean?
Fabiola Cineas: Kentucky AG releases Breonna Taylor grand jury audio recordings. More on Breonna Taylor:
Adam Cole: The Supreme Court is about to hit an undemocratic milestone. The US Senate accords two votes per state, regardless of population, so it is possible to form a majority of Senators who represent only a minority of the population. Indeed, four Supreme Court justices have been confirmed by minority-vote Senators (Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh). If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, she will probably be the fifth.
Patrick Radden Keefe: The Sackler family's plan to keep its billions: "The Trump administration is poised to make a settlement with Purdue Pharma that it can claim as a victory for opioid victims. But the proposed outcome would heave the company's owners enormously wealthy -- and off the hook for good."
Dahlia Lithwick: a The deranged, dangerous push to still seat Amy Coney Barrett: "For the GOP, entrenching minority rule is more important than human life."
David Sirota: The US Supreme Court may soon become plutocracy's greatest defender. Isn't it already? Not that it's needed as long as Trump is president and McConnell runs the Senate.
Paul Starr: How to rebalance the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the economy churns, as some people return to work, but others are getting laid off -- especially as the earlier stimulus program job protections have expired. There appears to have been a little progress toward a compromise on a new relief bill, but now that the stock market has recovered, that's not much of a priority for Senate Republicans.
Timothy Noah: Trump's "greatest recovery in history" is wheezing out.
JC Pan: Our plutocratic tax system was built for rich cheaters: "The Times exposé was a blunt articulation of how things work for people like Trump -- and against everyone else."
Kaila Philo: Noam Chomsky does not think the planet is doomed (yet). Interview, on a new book Chomsky co-wrote with Robert Pollin: Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal.