Sunday, April 30, 2023
Speaking of Which
PS: Added the Kessler piece below (under Trump).
Started early, mostly just to grab some of the early Tucker Carlson
reactions. Then I focused more on the
Book Roundup. I've been pretty unhappy the last couple days, but
keep finding links, and things to write about. Hoping to wrap this
up as soon as possible.
Although I say some nice things about Biden in his section, pay
extra attention to the world sections. Biden's foreign policy is not
an absolute, unmitigated disaster, but the mitigations are minor,
especially compared to the threats that of so much focus on power,
and the arrogance that comes from that.
Top story threads:
Fox and fiends (mostly Tucker Carlson): As you know, Carlson
was fired Monday morning, effective immediately, with Brian Kilmeade
lined up as a temporary replacement. CNN followed almost instantly by
firing Don Lemon. A couple days later, ABC fired FiveThirtyEight guru
Nate Silver. And there was more (see Stieb).
Matt Stieb: [04-28]
This Week's Media Massacre: A Roundup. About half of those seem to
be further proof that the big money media world is suffering some form
of heat death: companies are cooling off and cracking up, the firings
merely symptomatic. In this, Carlson's firing is probably an outlier,
if even an example at all.
Sara Morrison/Aja Romano: [04-28]
What we know about Tucker Carlson's shocking Fox News departure.
Peter Kafka: [04-26]
No, seriously, why did Fox News fire Tucker Carlson?
Jonathan Chait: [04-24]
Tucker Carlson, Fake Populist and
Genuine Racist: "A TV character who exploited the worst impulses
of the American right."
Lee Harris/Luke Goldstein: [04-25]
The Smuggest Man on Air: This tries to make a best case for
Carlson as a populist, as someone "who punctured the lazy pieties
of the media class." Still, slipping the occasional (and far from
original) nugget of insight into a cloak of vitriol isn't all that
helpful, let alone laudable. And even these authors had to conclude:
"For a partial list of Tucker's noxious comments, see
New York magazine,
The New Republic,
The New York Times, and others."
PS: The publisher got a lot of flack for this piece, for which editor
David Dayen apologized, and agreed to a rejoinder. It is here:
Harold Meyerson/Tisya Mavuram: [04-27]
The Real Tucker Carlson: "Carlson has been second only to Donald
Trump in building a neofascist right that threatens American democracy."
They also did a podcast, where Ryan Cooper is more explicit:
Farewell to a Crypto Nazi Blowhard. These pieces, in turn, provide
fuel for Andrew Prokop: [04-26]
The new controversy on the left: Is it okay to say Tucker Carlson had
some good ideas? Well, is it useful? It certainly doesn't work as
an argument from authority. One could say that "even Tucker Carlson"
conceded or tried to capitalize on some point, but then you're stuck
suggesting that Carlson had some values or insights rarely in evidence
Ed Kilgore: [04-25]
Tucker Carlson for President? Not in 2024. "No lane," not that
that's stopped anyone so far, although Carlson has long been a
subject for speculation (see Politico: [04-24]
The keys to a hypothetical Tucker Carlson 2024 campaign, which
asks the question: "Will Don Lemon be his running mate?" As I recall,
Lemon was on Trump's shit list, so not bloody likely. But I wouldn't
rule out the other fired Fox host, Lou Dobbs, or even Geraldo Rivera.
[PS: I've also seen a cartoon that pairs Carlson with Larry Elder,
who announced his candidacy on Carlson's show.]
Eric Levitz: [04-24]
Fox News Could Be Just as Racist Without Tucker Carlson: Sure,
they can always find another racist, but wasn't there something
distinctive and unique (je ne sais quoi, but something)
about Carlson's racism?
Branko Marcetic: [04-28]
Tucker Carlson Isn't an Anti-Imperialist -- He's a Rabid China
Andrew Prokop: [04-24]
Tucker Carlson was doing something different -- and darker -- than most
Fox hosts. For one thing, he had that super-creepy laugh (really more
of a cackle).
Jim Rutenberg/Jeremy W Peters/Michael S Schmidt: [04-26]
On Eve of Trial, Discovery of Carlson Texts Set Off Crisis Atop
Alex Shephard: [04-27]
Tucker Carlson Has Already Lost His War With Fox News: "His hostage
video on Wednesday proves it." Shephard also wrote: [04-26]
Rupert Murdoch May Have Blown His Tucker Succession Plan; also: [04-24]
Tucker Carlson's Firing Was Hilarious.
Matt Stieb: [04-24]
All the Things Tucker Carlson Said That Should Have Gotten Him Fired
Already: Well, sure, not all of them, but some typical
Tatyana Tandanpolie: [04-28]
Fox News loses more than half of audience after axing Tucker
Carlson: "It's not just Tucker's slot -- Sean Hannity and Laura
Ingraham's ratings are falling too."
Michael Tomasky: [04-28]
Rupert Murdoch Must Be Totally and Utterly Humiliated. Sure, but
Tomasky has been making a lot of bold, emphatic moral proclamations
lately. Have any of them come true?
Erik Wemple: [04-24]
Tucker Carlson, a terrible individual, leaves Fox News.
Jason Zengerle: [04-28]
Fox News Gambled, but Tucker Can Still Take Down the House.
Trump: E. Jean Carroll's defamation case against Trump is in
a court room, being argued. The case is a poor proxy for a charge of
rape, which happened about 25 years ago.
Kevin McCarthy, terrorist, sociopath, nincompoop: What else
would you call someone who wants to destroy the economy along with the
Alex Shephard: [04-28]
Kevin McCarthy Is Not Good at This: "The 'budget' passed by House
Republicans is terrible for the party politically." Well, he did get
his hostage note passed by the House, but in no scenario will he come
out of this looking like anything but a heel. Threatening to default,
like shutting down the government, has backfired every time Republicans
have tried it, but somehow Republicans like McCarthy can't resist the
moment in the spotlight. If they could, they could quietly cut all the
spending they wanted in the coming year's appropriations process. It
might seem harder, because the lobbyists will be all over his case,
but it's his leverage according to the constitution. But default over
spending that's already been passed is just terrorism.
Peter Wade: [04-30]
Ted Cruz Maligns Biden, Claims He Is 'Behaving Like a Terrorist' with
Debt Ceiling: Talk about the kettle calling the pot black. "The
senator also called White House staffers 'little Marxists with no
experience in the real world."
Jamelle Bouie: [04-29]
A Sinister New Page in the Republican Playbook: It's long been
evident that Republicans believe that America is really home to, and
should belong to, only a part of its people. The others have long
been deprecated, disparaged, even rallied against. They wish to deny
them rights, especially the right to vote. The "new page" is that
they've started to use their power to deny others representation.
You're probably familiar with many of these examples. One is here:
Li Zhou: [04-26]
Montana Republicans are punishing a trans lawmaker for criticizing
their anti-trans bill.
Fabiola Cineas: [04-28]
The Ten Commandments could be in every Texas classroom next fall:
Interview with Jonathan Zimmerman, on three bills Texas passed that
almost certainly violate the 1st Amendment.
Gabrielle Gurley: [04-27]
Republicans Declare War on Young Voters: "The GOP answer to anger
about its abortion, climate, and gun control crusades is to double
down." Also: "Some Republican lawmakers have been very clear about
views on suppressing the college vote."
Ed Kilgore: [04-28]
State Court Deals Big Blow to Dems' Chances of Retaking the House:
The North Carolina Supreme Court blesses the Republican gerrymander.
Dylan Matthews: [04-29]
The blithe cruelty of the GOP push for Medicaid work requirements.
Nicole Narea: [04-28]
The Florida legislature is working for Ron DeSantis's presidential
campaign: "This legislative session has been all about Ron
Timothy Noah: [04-27]
Why Republicans Hate It When Poor People Have Food to Eat: "The
House GOP's attacks on food stamps are part of a long history of
conservative attempts to slash the program."
Nikki McCann Ramirez: [04-28]
DeSantis Suggests He Personally Prayed a Hurricane Away From Florida:
Weirder, he had to go to Israel to make his prayers heard.
Dylan Scott: [04-27]
How Ron DeSantis transformed into an anti-public health crusader.
Lots of things disturb me about the Republican Party, but the extent
to which they've turned against public health is especially alarming.
Hard to tell whether DeSantis is leading that turn, or just going with
Tori Otten: [04-28]
Ron DeSantis Explodes When Asked About His Role in Guantánamo Torture.
This also leads us to Prem Thakker: [04-24]
Ron DeSantis Short-Circuits When Asked About Dropping Poll Numbers.
Incidents like these have led to a substantial thread of posts raising
questions about DeSantis's deficiencies in social skills and manners:
Biden: He announced that he is running for reëlection in 2024,
so I figured I should give him a section, as I've been giving Trump (and
sometimes DeSantis) for several months now. Surely there would be an
outpouring of articles praising his accomplishments and auguring
future hope? Well, not so much. One thing only I noticed is that this
breathes a faint bit of hope into my theory about political eras: that
each starts with a major two-term president (Washington, Jefferson,
Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Reagan) and ends with a one-term disaster
(John Adams, Buchanan, Hoover, Carter, Trump). Biden still seems like
a stretch, but he wouldn't be as much of an anomaly as Reagan, whose
whole era is the only one to witness a retreat of fundamental rights.
But also, Biden is the only president in my lifetime who has impressed
me beyond expectations. (True, I have no memory of Truman, and was at
best ambivalent about Eisenhower and Kennedy. Johnson I now see did
some good, but far worse was his war in Vietnam. Nixon, well, you know
John Cassidy: [04-25]
Joe Biden's 2024 opening argument: It's me or the abyss: "The
President's calling card -- as a Trump-slayer, and an upholder of
normality and sanity -- remains his biggest advantage."
Ed Kilgore: [04-27]
Will Biden Get Embarrassed in Iowa and New Hampshire? The problem
here has less to do with Biden's popularity than with primary politics:
Iowa and New Hampshire have repeatedly jumped through hoops to get to
first slot on the schedule, and the decision to drop them in favor of
South Carolina hasn't been taken lightly.
Eric Levitz: [04-28]
Trump Could Definitely Beat Biden: I'm filing this under Biden
instead of Trump, because it's more about Biden's weaknesses. I know,
never underestimate the ability of the American people to make stupid
mistakes. But it seems like Levitz has been writing a lot of stuff
lately just to trigger reactions.
Harold Meyerson: [04-24]
The Hedge Fund's Man at the Democratic National Committee: "Cedric
Richmond backs a hedge fund takeover of 60 TV stations."
Nicole Narea: [04-27]
Will there be any presidential debates in 2024?: "It's looking like
neither Trump nor Biden will have to participate in a presidential debate
in 2024." While both have some skills at acting out, neither is much of
a debater, so why risk a commanding lead? Biden has the least reason to,
given that few in the press recognize Marianne Williamson and/or Robert
F Kennedy Jr as serious candidates. Trump could take the same position,
unless the polls tell him otherwise. As for debates between them after
they get nominated (assuming as much), that's too early to tell.
Katie Rogers: [04-28]
Press Freedom! Celebrities! (Also, the President.) Get ready for
the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. One of the few
Trump moves I approved of was to put this miserable exercise out of
business. Sure, he only did it because he was too thin-skinned to
take the heat. But the White House correspondents, or at least the
news they reported, would have benefited from more objectivity and
PS: If you care, see Kelly McClure: [04-30]
The White House correspondents' dinner highlights: Biden can make
jokes as well as he can take them; also Hershal Pandya: [04-30]
Roy Wood Jr's Best Jokes at the 2023 White House Correspondents'
Blaise Malley: [04-28]
Diplomacy Watch: China seeks to portray itself as peacemaker in
James Bamford: [04-27]
The Most Dangerous Game: How Shadow War Over Ukraine Nearly Triggered
Nuclear Holocaust; "Unnoticed among the trove of documents in the
Pentagon leak is this account of how a miscommunication between a
Russian pilot and his base came perilously close to starting World
Julia Conley: [04-27]
Climate Groups Call on Biden to Support Peace Talksk in Ukraine.
Fred Kaplan: [04-29]
Why Did Xi Jinping Suddenly Call Zelensky? "Some guesses as to what's
Daniel Larison: [04-28]
Lawmakers deploy 'Munich' trope to push dangerously hawkish Ukraine
resolutions: "A bipartisan group of hawks in Congress" want to pass
something they call the Ukrainian Victory Resolution, whereby the US --
and not Ukraine, which is actually doing the fighting -- will dictate
the only acceptable terms for ending the war: "restoration of Ukraine's
1991 borders" and inclusion of Ukraine in NATO. And of course they're
invoking the hoariest of pro-war tropes, the "Munich moment" (which was
1938, not 1939, and involved Czechoslovakia, not Poland). By the way,
in 1939, when Hitler threatened to invade Poland, the UK and France did
announce that they'd declare war on Germany if they invaded, and that
had no deterrence effect whatsoever. So why does anyone think that a
stronger stand in Munich would have frozen the Nazi war machine in its
Nanjala Nyabola: [04-25]
What the World Should Know About Sudan: "You need to understand
European foreign policy."
Olivia Rosane: [04-27]
Investigation Details How Gas Industry Exploited Ukraine War to Boost
World at Large:
Michael Barnett/Nathan Brown/Marc Lynch/Shibley Telhami: [04-14]
Israel's One-State Reality: It's Time to Give Up on the Two-State
Solution: Introduction to a new book, a collection of essays
edited by the author, called
The One State Reality: What Is Israel/Palestine?. Mitchell
Plitnick wrote about it here: [04-21]
The one-state reality goes mainstream, as did Philip Weiss: [04-26]
White House officials know Israel is an apartheid state, but they can't
say so. This insight isn't particularly new: it's hard to think of
anyone other than Washington diplomats who've talked about "two-state
solution" since 2012, which is the date of a book I read: Ariella
The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in
Israel/Palestine. As for "apartheid," Jimmy Carter:
Palestine Peace Not Apartheid came out in 2006. So I'm not
surprised to find that prospects for separating the former West Bank
into an independent Palestinian state have been demolished: that's
been the plan since 1967, as was made clear by Avi Raz:
The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the
Aftermath of the June 1967 War. What does surprise me is that
nobody talks about the obvious two-state division, which breaks Gaza
off as an independent state. Palestinians don't like this, presumably
because they see it as a divide-and-conquer policy, aimed as finalizing
the subjugation of the Palestinian West Bank. And Israelis don't like
it, because it would mean recognizing that there is a legitimate
Palestinian state. But it would end the current "open air prison,"
and allow at least some Palestinians to get on the path of becoming
a normal country. That at least is a separable, solvable problem.
Sure, that would leave Israel's foundational problem (call it apartheid
for lack of a sufficient alternative), with little chance of solution,
but why not fix what you can do now?
Tanya Goudsouzian: [04-28]
What would it take to recognize the Taliban? While I would like to
see many of the concessions the US and others are demanding, I doubt
you get there in one initial step, or ever unless you offer some basic
level of recognition.
Michael T Klare: [04-26]
A US-China War Over Taiwan? "What will happen when China invades
Taiwan, as so many in Washington believe is inevitable?" But why should
we credit anything people in Washington think about China? What gives
them such special insight? One thing we should know is that China has
been very patient as well as very stubborn about territorial claims.
They patiently negotiated their takeover of Hong Kong and Macau, which
they could easily have occupied (as India, for instance, grabbed Goa).
I don't like the elaborate fiction they have insisted on regarding "one
China" and/or their claim to Taiwan (which has only been part of China
for 4 years since 1895, and a very divided China at that), but the push
to arm Taiwan and turn it into a satellite dependent on the US for its
security seems very clearly meant as aimed at China. And it is precisely
the sort of move that could provoke China to unseemly action.
Dan Lamothe/Joby Warrick: [04-22]
Afghanistan has become a terrorism staging ground again, leak reveals.
Robert Wright points out, the headline here is misleading, in such
a way as to imply "that this amounts to an indictment of President Biden's
decision to withdraw from Afghanistan -- that, just as his critics had
warned, turning Afghanistan over to the Taliban has turned it into a
playground for anti-American terrorists." The "terrorists" in question
identify as ISIS, although how closely (if at all) they are affiliated
with ISIS in Syria isn't clear. The enemy of the Afghan ISIS is the
Taliban, if the US had any interest in countering ISIS terrorism, they
would recognize and work toward stabilizing the Taliban regime. It is,
after all, the de facto government there, and there's nothing practical
the US can do to alter that, so huffing off in a snit helps no one.
PS: See Robert Wright: [04-29]
No, Afghanistan has not become a 'staging ground for terrorists'.
James Park: [04-28]
What the Biden-Yoon summit left out: "Nuclear saber rattling hasn't
changed North Korea's behavior in the past and it likely won't now."
As best I recall, it's mostly made it worse. One of the clearest lessons
we should but haven't learned from Ukraine is that deterrence doesn't
work: more precisely, it can be safely ignored by countries that have
no interest in attacking you in the first place (which includes the
Soviet Union for the entire duration of the Cold War), while it presses
countries that think they can get away with it into acting more boldly
(as Russia did in Ukraine). The lessons from North Korea itself should
be even clearer. Ever since 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed and
with it the security umbrella and life support Russia provided, North
Korea has been desperately flailing, threatening at times and otherwise
accommodating, trying to protect its security and enter into trade that
could revive a moribund economy. The US and/or South Korea has sometimes
started to engage, which lowered the threat level, then backed out and
double crossed North Korea, which lead to increased threats. Why? This
seems monumentally stupid to me, but the war gamers in Washington may
figure a threatening North Korea is better for their budgets, plus it
keeps Japan and South Korea in the US orbit, which matters when you're
ulterior motive is to muscle China around.
Chas Danner: [04-29]
Texas Family Gunned Down by Neighbor in Yet Another Horrific Shooting.
David Dayen: [04-18]
Big Tech Lobbyists Explain How They Took Over Washington: "An
amazing research paper unearths how the tech industry invented the
concept of digital trade and sold it to government officials."
Daniel Gilbert: [04-29]
Moderna's billionaire CEO reaped nearly $400 million last year. He also
got a raise.
Ethan Iverson: [04-10]
The End of the Music Business.
Jay Caspian Kang: [04-04]
The case for banning children from social media: Not a subject I
particularly want to think about, at least right now, but bookmarked
for future reference. I will say that throughout history, banning
something is a good way to get people to do it anyway, and make them
more anti-social and anti-civil in the process. Also that we tend to
be overprotective of children, while at the same time making it harder
for people of all ages to overcome mistakes and recover their lives.
Also that the real problem with social media is commercial capture,
and if you want to work on something, start there: if, for instance,
you severely limited data capture, banned selling it and/or using it
for advertising, and made advertising strictly opt-in, you could drive
most of the bad actors off the Internet, and solve most of the problems
associated with them. Just a few thoughts off the top of my head. I'm
sure much more could follow. And perhaps this is just me, but I was
miserable as a child, in many ways that access to the Internet (even
in the benighted form of today's social media) would probably have
Robert Kuttner: [04-26]
The Soaking at Bed Bath & Beyond: "Who bought yup all that stock,
as the retailer was on the route to bankruptcy?"
Joel Penney: [04-29]
Right-wing media used to shun pop culture. Now it's obsessed with it.
I'm not so sure about the first line, given how popular music from rock
and roll in the 1950s to hip-hop in the 1980s were met with hysterical
denunciations from self-appointed guardians of decency, but sure, it
seems to be getting both more trivial and more frantic. Part of that
may be the perception that popular culture trends have become so broad,
so ubiquitous that all the right can do is rant and rail -- also feeds
into their general sense of victimhood and grievance. I remember back
in the 1970s it seemed like a big insight to understand how politics
permeated cultural artifacts. (One famous example was
How to Read Donald Duck.) But while the right managed to claw
back (or cling to) political power, culture has continued its popular
(if ever more varied) drift, and "high culture" is hardly even a term
anymore (maybe "highbrow," but even that may be showing my age).
Still, I can't help but be amused watching right-wingers discover
bits of formerly left-wing methodology, exposing hidden political memes
in everyday cultural artifacts. But haven't they been doing that all
along? It's just funnier now that symbols of satanism have given way
to the currently more alarming curse of wokeness.
Adam Rawnsley/Jim Laporta: [04-27]
The Online Racists Stealing Military Secrets: Jack Teixiera:
If he's to be believed, you can't call him a whistleblower, because
he wasn't trying to expose secrets that needed further scrutiny.
He was just showing off to his friends, which turns out to be a part
of a broader complex of pathological personal traits: the guns, the
racism, etc. People have wondered why the military gave someone like
him such access to top-secret material. Perhaps they should wonder
about the mutual attraction between the military and people like him,
or, say, Timothy McVeigh, or Michael Flynn. I'm not a big fan of a
culture where the most basic principle is the necessity of following
orders, but at least that's an ordering principle. Just recruiting
psychotics who think they should answer to "higher powers" is crazy.
And speaking of crazy, while I didn't think much of the revelations
at first, the more we get into them, the more bizarre they become. I've
long suspected that secret classifications were more meant to keep the
truth from ourselves than from supposed enemies. And the big secret
here is that nobody in a position of power seems to know what they're
Jeffrey St Clair: [04-28]
Roaming Charges: Nipped and Tuckered: Starts with Carlson, but has
surprisingly little to add, other than his observation that: "Tucker
Carlson seems to be a truly weird person. His obsessions -- filth,
bizarre animal stories ('sex crazed pandas' and 'psycho raccoons'),
obesity, bodily excrescences, the subliminal gender messages in candy,
testicle tanning -- which he regularly inflicted on his audiences,
range far beyond the usual tabloid grotesqueries and border on the
Friday, April 28, 2023
Pick up text from blog link.
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
David Everall asked:
Any chance you could expand on why you don't like the Boygenius album
which has had generally very positive reviews elsewhere?
I have no interest in playing the record again, but I did expand:
I wouldn't say I disliked the album. I just got to the end and found I
had had barely noticed it. I landed on the same B for their 2018 EP,
and their individual albums haven't fared much better. In general, I
don't catch words well (or put much weight on them), and I'm not
easily impressed by vocal harmonies, but I can't swear that is the
case. The same desire to move on affected most of the week's
non-reviews, including Lonnie Holley, Margo Price, Fever Ray, Mette
Henriette, and Anat Fort; even some records I liked much more, like
Belle and Sebastian, Slaid Cleaves, Hieroglyphic Being, and Karol
G. I'm afraid that was the best I could do under the
circumstances. B&S is the only one I feel a bit bad about. However,
now that you mention it, Boygenius is rated 89/37 at AOTY, which is
about as high as last year's Big Thief, nearly as high as Fiona Apple
from a couple years back -- albums I got into much more
immediately. Most of the reviews there strike me as bs ("nothing short
of seismic" is totally wrong; "like ABBA and Fleetwood Mac" is
something I would have noticed), but maybe there's a sociological
angle worth further investigation. I'm not sure I care, but I'm pretty
accustomed to critical favorites falling flat for me -- e.g., AOTY has
Caroline Polachek (a * in my book) at 88/22; Cecile McLorin Salvant
(another *) at 87/5; JPEGMafia/Danny Brown (*) at 85/13 -- each a
different problem, and (yeah) probably mine. The only records in their
top 100 that I have at A- are Iris DeMent and Yo La Tengo (although I
haven't yet heard at least a third of their list, and I'm unlikely
ever to check out the ton of metal that scores high only because those
of us who dislike it have given up on reviewing).
Monday, April 24, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 47 albums, 5 A-list,
Music: Current count 40078  rated (+47), 49  unrated (-5: 21 new, 28 old).
Again, mostly new music, mostly attributable to the
tracking file, which is usually
the first thing I consult when I need a new record. Pace picked up
considerably from Friday, when I started collecting
Which: at 5668 words, just a bit shorter than the
(5773 words). The difference (and much of the difference from the
even longer previous weeks (of
is in the introductions, which I cut short this week.
It's a grind to pull those posts together in three days, which results
in another grind as I process music in the background. I'm usually paying
enough attention to form a reasonable opinion, but rarely have the time
to write down much detail: hence, you get a bunch of reviews that hardly
say anything. That probably says something about my priorities: I'd
rather get to the next record than nail the one I just heard, and in
any case I care more about making my political points than music crit
ones: I feel like I have more to say, more that is original, and more
Unfortunately, few others feel that way. And frankly, I was rather
gratified in a noticeable uptick of interest in last week's
That marked the week when my rated count topped 40,000, so it was
as much a lifetime achievement as another weekly installment. My
wife recently watched Sullivan's Travels for her film group,
so for a week there I kept imagine people coming up to me and
advising, "forget about the politics you can't do anything about
anyway, and just write better record reviews." But here I am,
still taking a half-assed stab at both.
I'm almost done with Brian T Watson's Headed Into the Abyss:
The Story of Our Time, and the Future We'll Face. I'm not
convinced that the forces he identifies will lead to the doom
of civilization he predicts, but he got me thinking about other
things he slights (war, guns, racism, civil strife, injustice,
surveillance, repression) and in some cases misses completely
(his book appeared just before Covid broke out). He is fairly
good on climate change (without more than a few lines on how
it might generate waves of emigration, resource conflicts,
and war), a little both-sidesy on capitalism and politics,
and way over the top on what he calls Webworld.
He understands that these "forces" interact and compound in
ways that are hard to separate out -- his Webworld is largely a
confluence of dangers he doesn't fully articulate in capitalism,
technology, politics, and human nature. The latter is by far the
trickiest to write about: even though we've been studying it for
ages, it's almost impossible to generalize about in contexts that
haven't yet happened.
What I do believe is that there are practical, technical
solutions to virtually all problems we face, except that there is
(and will continue to be) formidable political opposition to doing
anything before it is much too late. So, I think it's ultimately
very important to thoroughly critique those political opponents.
Of course, it's also nice to have some nice music to play in the
background. (I happen to be on an Ivo Perelman kick at the moment.)
Next book up is probably Kurt Andersen's 2017 book
How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. I read
Andersen's later (2020) book,
Geniuses: The Unmaking of America shortly after it came
out, and consider it the single best book on the rise of the
political right in recent America. The earlier book won't have
the luxury of pointing to Trump (although it serendipitously
arrived with America's most ridiculous fantasy president). I've
long regarded Reagan's 1980 election as a decision to live in
a fantasy world (his catchphrase was "morning in America") as
the real one was becoming too grim, but when you think about it,
everything from "city on a hill" to "go west, young man" to the
"new frontier" was fantasy.
Maybe there's a fantasy for a political era that actually faces
problems and turns them into opportunities for a better world, as
opposed to the usual ones where you look away and pretend it's got
nothing to do with you.
This is the last Music Week of April, so the monthly archive
should be complete (see link above), but I decided to post this
before I do all my usual indexing. I'll catch up later in the
week. Meanwhile, the first nominal week of May has started,
New records reviewed this week:
- Susan Alcorn/Patrick Holmes/Ryan Sawyer: From Union Pool (2022 , Relative Pitch): [sp]: B+(*)
- Ralph Alessi Quartet: It's Always Now (2021 , ECM): [sp]: B+(***)
- Algiers: Shook (2023, Matador): [sp]: B+(*)
- Matt Barber: The Song Is You (2023, MB): [cd]: B+(*)
- Kenny Barron: The Source (2022 , Artwork): [sp]: B+(***)
- Belle and Sebastian: Late Developers (2023, Matador): [sp]: B+(***)
- Boygenius: The Record (2023, Interscope): [sp]: B
- John Cale: Mercy (2023, Domino): [sp]: B+(*)
- Rodrigo Campos: Pagode Novo (2023, YB Music): [sp]: B+(***)
- Joe Chambers: Dance Kobina (2023, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(**)
- Slaid Cleaves: Together Through the Dark (2023, Candy House Media): [sp]: B+(***)
- Das Kondensat: Andere Planeten (2020 , WhyPlayJazz): [cd]: A-
- Yelena Eckemoff: Lonely Man and His Fish (2021 , L&H Production, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***) [04-28]
- Michael Feinberg: Blues Variant (2022 , Criss Cross): [sp]: B+(***)
- Fever Ray: Radical Romantics (2023, Rabid/Mute): [sp]: B+(**)
- Anat Fort Trio: The Berlin Sessions (2022 , Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(**)
- GoGo Penguin: Everything Is Going to Be OK (2023, XXIM): [sp]: B+(**)
- Mette Henriette: Drifting (2020-22 , ECM): [sp]: B
- Hieroglyphic Being: There Is No Acid in This House (2022, Soul Jazz): [sp]: B+(***)
- Lonnie Holley: Oh Me Oh My (2023, Jagjaguwar): [sp]: B+(*)
- Islandman Feat. Okay Temiz/Muhlis Berberoglu: Direct-to-Disc Sessions (2021 , Night Dreamer): [sp]: A-
- Karol G: Mañana Será Bonito (2023, Universal Music Latino): [sp]: B+(***)
- Kate NV: Wow (2023, RVNG Intl): [sp]: B
- Kelela: Raven (2023, Warp): [sp]: B+(**)
- The Long Ryders: September November (2023, Cherry Red): [sp]: B+(**)
- Loscil & Lawrence English: Colours of Air (2023, Kranky): [sp]: B+(*)
- Brad Mehldau: Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles (2020 , Nonesuch): [sp]: B
- Margo Price: Strays (2023, Loma Vista): [sp]: B+(*)
- Taiko Saito: Tears of a Cloud (2022 , Trouble in the East): [cd]: B+(*) [04-28]
- Kendrick Scott: Corridors (2023, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(**)
- Slowthai: Ugly (2023, Method/Universal): [sp]: A-
- Wadada Leo Smith and Orange Wave Electric: Fire Illuminations (2023, Kabell): [sp]: A-
- Walter Smith III: Return to Casual (2023, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(*)
- Something Blue: Personal Preference (2021 , Posi-Tone): [sp]: B+(*)
- Mark Soskin/Jay Anderson: Empathy (2022 , SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(***)
- Ben Wendel: All One (2020-22 , Edition): [cd]: B
- Buster Williams: Unalome (2022 , Smoke Sessions): [sp]: B
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Chet Baker: Blue Room: The 1979 Vara Studio Sessions in Holland (1979 , Jazz Detective, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**) [04-28]
- Bill Charlap: All Through the Night (1997 , Criss Cross): [sp]: B+(**)
- Dream Dolphin: Gaia: Selected Ambient & Downtempo Works (1996-2003) (1996-2003 , Music From Memory, 2CD): [sp]: B+(**)
- Dick Sisto: Falling in Love (1994 , SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
- Das Kondensat: Das Kondensat (2016 , WhyPlayJazz): [sp]: B+(**)
- Das Kondensat: 2 (2020 , WhyPlayJazz): [sp]: A-
- Gebhard Ullmann: Kreuzberg Park East (1997 , Soul Note): [sp]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Sylvie Courvoisier & Cory Smythe: The Rite of Spring/Spectre D'Un Songe (Pyroclastic) [05-19]
- Bruno Råberg: Solo Bass: Look Inside (Orbis Music) [05-19]
- Brandon Seabrook: Brutalovechamp (Pyroclastic) [05-26]
Sunday, April 23, 2023
Speaking of Which
Supposedly Obama's motto as president was "don't do stupid shit."
Republicans this week, perhaps more than ever before, proved themselves
to be his polar opposite.
Sad to hear of the death of
Fern Van Gieson (1928-2023), a dear friend we met twenty-some years
ago through the Wichita Peace Center.
Also passing this week was Australian comedian Barry Humphries,
better known as
Dame Edna Everage. I can't say as I've ever been much of a fan,
but this reminds me how common, innocent, and downright silly drag
has been going back longer than I can remember. Republicans want
to vilify and criminalize drag. While it's always possible that
their schemes are just some cynical plot hatched from Frank Luntz's
polling, the deeper implication is that their fears are rooted in
deep insecurities, as well as a defective sense of humor, and a
general loathing not just for people who are a bit different, but
also for people who are a bit too similar.
Top story threads:
Kevin McCarthy v. America: I don't have time to write more,
but this reminds me of the scene in Blazing Saddles where the
black sheriff escapes a lynching by threatening to shoot himself.
Trump: No new indictments. E. Jean Carroll's defamation case
against Trump is scheduled to start on
April 25, with or probably without Trump's presence. I skipped over
a bunch of articles on how Trump is polling (he seems to be burying
Isaac Arnsdorf/Jeff Stein: [04-21]
Trump touts authoritarian vision for second term: 'I am your justice':
He goes on: "And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your
retribution." "The former president is proposing deploying the military
domestically, purging the federal workforce and building futuristic cities
from scratch." The latter are to be called "freedom cities": "with flying
cars, manufacturing hubs and opportunities for homeownership, promising
a 'quantum leap in the American standard of living.'" Stephen Moore wants
to build them with tax incentives and deregulation, as well as a "super
police force that keeps the place safe." Some ideas do suggest Trump
input, like "classical-style buildings, monuments to 'true American
heroes,' and schools and streets named 'not after communists but
Sophia A McClennen: [04-22]
Sick of Trump? Try laughing at him. Author wrote a book on the
subject: Trump Was a Joke: How Satire Made Sense of a President
Who Didn't (Routledge, rather pricey at
$35.96 paperback). Author previously wrote [02-01]
Donald Trump is the worst kind of fool.
Luke Savage: [04-20]
Donald Trump's NFTs Are the Perfect Symbol of American Capitalilsm in
Other Republicans: If you want an intro here, refer back to
Kate Aronoff: [04-21]
Why Republicans Want to Keep Free Money Out of Their Districts: "The
GOP wants to cut 24 clean energy tax credits -- that disproportionately
benefit Republican districts."
Zack Beauchamp: [04-21]
Why so many top Republicans want to go to war in Mexico: "An
astonishingly bad idea that's gotten popular very quickly." Trump
wants "battle plans." Senators Graham and Kennedy, and some House
Republicans, want to designate drug cartels as "foreign terrorist
organizations," and are pushing an "authorization of military force"
resolution, like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Jacob Bogage/Maria Luisa Paúl: [04-23]
The conservative campaign to rewrite child labor laws: "The
Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida-based think
tank and lobbying group, drafted state legislation to strip child
Jonathan Chait: [04-21]
Mitt Romney Thinks the Labor Secretary Shouldn't Represent Labor:
Not a big surprise given that his 2012 running mate proclaimed that
Labor Day should celebrate America's great entrepreneurs, who somehow
built all of America's wealth through their hard work and ingenuity.
Biden's nominated Julie Su for Labor Secretary, raising Romney's ire'
because her "public calendar shows standing meetings with unions and
only very recent engagement with businesses." On the other hand, he
had no qualms about voting for Trump's pick of Eugene Scalia (yes,
nepo-son of that Scalia), who was a "lifelong union-buster" and "has
yet to find a worker protection he supports or a corporate loophole
he opposes." By the way, on Su see: Timothy Noah: [04-20]
Republicans Took Their Shots at Biden's Labor Nominee.
Fabiola Cineas: [04-20]
Ron DeSantis's war on "woke" in Florida schools, explained:
"From book bans to a hostile campus takeover, here's a rundown of
DeSantis's conservative plan for Florida education."
Julia Conley: [04-20]
'Relentless' GOP Push Leads to Nearly 1,500 Book Bans in First Half
of School Year.
Josh Dawsey/Amy Gardner: [04-20]
Top GOP lawyer decries ease of campus voting in private pitch to
RNC: Cleta Mitchell.
Cory Doctorow: [04-19]
Iowa's starvation strategy: "When billionaires fund unimaginably
cruel policies, I think the cruelty is a tactic, a way to get
the turkeys to vote for Christmas. After all, policies that grow the
fortune of the 1% at the expense of the rest of us have a natural 99%
disapproval rating." And: "Pro-oligarch policies don't win democratic
support -- but policies that inflict harm [on] a ginned-up group of enemies
might. Oligarchs need frightened, hateful people to vote for policies
that will secure and expand the power of the rich. Cruelty is the
tactic. Power is the strategy. The point isn't cruelty, it's power."
But when such policies are implemented, they sure look like cruelty --
both to the sadists who relish them, and to the rest of us. Isn't
one of the basic principles of ethics to draw the line well short
Luke Goldstein: [04-21]
Sen. Tim Scott's 'Land of Opportunity' (Zones).
Margaret Hartmann: [04-21]
All of Ron DeSantis's Crimes Against Good Etiquette: The worst
of which are at least a hundred rungs down a ranked list of his bad
personal and political traits.
Rae Hodge: [04-21]
Abbott pledges to pardon a groomer: Link title, actually the same
murderer Abbott pledged to pardon a week or two ago, but now we're
finding out more, like how he "chats to meet young girls."
Ellen Ioanes: [04-22]
As the end of Title 42 nears, Congress is no closer on immigration
overhaul: The House GOP has a hideous bill ("too harsh, even for
Greg Jaffe/Patrick Marley: [04-22]
In a thriving Michigan county, a community goes to war with itself:
The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners has eight new members, all
Republicans, all insane right-wingers. Why? As
Steve M argues: [04-22]
Covid Made Right-Winters insane.
Tori Otten: [04-19]
Florida Republicans Pass Bill Allowing Trans Kids to Be Removed From
Their Families. Otten also wrote: [04-19]
Florida Passes Anti-Drag Ban So Extreme It Could Ban All Pride Parades.
Texas Republicans Pass Bill Requiring Ten Commandments in Every
Maria Luisa Paúl: [04-21]
Tennessee lawmaker resigns after violating harassment policy:
Rep. Scotty Campbell (R), who voted to expel the "Tennessee 3," finds
himself on the wrong end of the stick.
Trudy Ring: [04-21]
Kansas Gov. Vetoes Four Anti-Trans Bills; Republicans Will Try to
Override: Which they'll probably do, given their veto-proof
majority in the KS state legislature. Similar bills have recently
been passed in
Kentucky (over veto) and
North Dakota (signed by a Republican governor), and Republicans in
the US House also
Alex Shephard: [04-19]
Ron DeSantis Is Having an Epic Disaster of a Week: "The Florida
governor made a pilgrimage to Capitol Hill to freshen up his moribund
campaign. Things didn't go as planned."
Matt Stieb: [04-19]
Oklahoma Sheriff Says Recording About Lynching Black People Is
Michael Tomasky: [04-20]
The (Republican) Party's Over: "We asked four recovering Republicans
if the GOP is salvageable. Hint: They laughed." Interview with Michael
Steele, Juleanna Glover, Max Boot, and Nicolle Wallace. Beyond laughing,
they don't inspire much confidence. Their "center-right" platitudes and
Reagan/Lincoln nostalgia miss the real problem with Republicans today,
which is that they're all opportunistic propaganda and graft, with no
clue how to formulate a viable policy to address a real problem. It
isn't even clear that the interviewees have a problem with that. They
mostly see Trump as a fountain of bad taste.
Guns: OK, this is the week I finally gave up on trying to
rationalize a right to guns. Take them away. Consider "my cold dead
fingers a taunt." I'm the first to admit that banning
something people really want doesn't make it go away, but in
this case it would certainly make it harder for a lot of very stupid
people to do vicious things that are completely unjustifiable.
Jeffrey St Clair (more on his
piece below) offers a quick rundown:
In one 24-hour period last weekend, there were at least 15 mass shootings
in the US, including 4 shot in Northridge, California, 6 in Louisville,
36 in Dadeville, Alabama, 6 in Cyrus, Minnesota, 3 in New Orleans, 6 in
Paterson, NJ, 5 in Wiainai, Hawaii, 4 in Detroit, another 3 in Louisville,
4 in Phoenix, 3 in Los Angeles, 3 in Charlotte, 4 in Newark and 3 in
This week in America . . .
- A teenage boy was shot for ringing the wrong doorbell.
- A teenage girl was shot for entering the wrong driveway.
- A cheerleader was shot for going up to the wrong car.
- A six-year old girl shot for rolling a ball into the wrong yard.
Globally, 87% of the children killed by gunfire were shot in the USA.
He also offers stats for mass shootings in US by year, rising from
272 in 2014 to 415 in 2019, then to 610-690 from 2020-22. This year's
total of 164 in 108 days is actually a bit behind the recent pace
(although 554 would be the 4th most ever). [PS: Others insist
Frequent shootings put US mass killings on a record pace.]
Further down, he also notes
that "Boston cops shot two dogs this week while serving a warrant against
a man for . . . driving without a license." I'm beginning to feel wistful
for the threatened dystopia of a "world where only criminals have guns."
For one thing, that would make it easier to identify the criminals.
Some of these stories below (and by Sunday there'll no doubt be more):
Fox: Just before the trial opened, Dominion Voting Machines
agreed to settle their defamation suit with Fox, for a whopping $787
million (they had originally sued for $1.6 billion, so about half
Matthew Dallek: [04-19]
How Fox Helped Break the American Right: I'm more inclined to say
that they took a right that was thoroughly discredited by the second
Bush administration, and revived it as a fact-free revenge fantasy. It
was a con, but a lucrative one for Fox, even if they wound up having
to pay a little something for their lies years later.
David J Lynch: [04-21]
Dominion settlement tab may be just the start of Fox's financial
woes: "Additional lawsuits threaten to erase more of its corporate
giant's cash pile."
Harold Meyerson: [04-20]
It's Time for a Shareholder Suit Against Fox: "The squandering of
nearly a billion bucks due to management's misconduct should prompt a
Chris Lehmann: [04-19]
It Costs $787.5 Million to Lie to the Public. Fox News Can Afford It.
True enough, but most of the time Fox lies they make money doing so, so
this settlement is a fluke exception, just part of the cost of doing
Nicole Narea: [04-19]
Why a record-shattering settlement might not change Fox News.
Margaret Sullivan: [04-19]
Dominion suit exposed how Fox damages democracy with lies.
Michael Tomasky: [04-21]
First Alex Jones, and Now Fox News -- Connect the Dots, People:
Asks why "we don't see liberal media outlets paying huge settlements
in defamation lawsuits," and answers that they don't lie brazenly
like the right-wingers, who: "They lie. They lie all the time about
practically everything." Still, it's very rare, and rather peculiar,
for them to be held accountable for any given lie.
Steve M: [04-20]
Fox has plenty of ways to divide America that don't qualify as
defamation. "Fox won't stop being Fox, because Fox doesn't need
to put itself at legal risk to be Fox."
Next up, Mike Lindell: But even before he faces his own Dominion
lawsuit, there's this:
Elizabeth Kolbert: [04-22]
It's Earth Day -- and the news isn't good: "New reports show that
ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than anticipated,
and other disasters loom."
Kate Aronoff: [04-18]
Is Jimmy Carter Where Environmentalism Went Wrong? "Carter's austerity
was part of a bigger project. It didn't really have much to do with
environmentalism." There is a lot to chew on here, but also more stuff
the author doesn't mention, like the "Carter Doctrine" that committed
the US to securing oil shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf -- the second
of two major decisions in the 1970s to keep gas cheap (the other being
Nixon's refusal to conserve oil after production peaked in 1969, leading
to a trade deficit in 1970 that has only grown ever since).
Liza Featherstone: [04-20]
Nixon Was the Weirdest Environmentalist: "Richard Nixon, the original
culture warrior, helped establish Earth Day and poured millions of dollars
into conservation, despite his own ambivalence about the environmental
movement." There was a brief period 10-20 years ago when some liberal
pundits thought it would be clever to rehabilitate Nixon as a closet
progressive, largely on the basis of a series of bills that he signed
after Democrats in Congress passed them, including the Clean Water Act,
the Endangered Species Act, and OSHA. But the best you can say for Nixon
is that he recognized that government needed to move left to even begin
to deal with some pressing problems (and with the Cuyahoga River burning
down bridges, the environment was the most obvious one). But Nixon rarely
if ever cared about solving problems (one fine example of his indifference
was making Donald Rumsfeld head of the EEOC). He just didn't want to lose
any political power by taking the wrong side of an issue, and the one
thing he really did care about was power.
Buzzfeed, Twitter, etc.:
Connor Echols: [04-21]
Diplomacy Watch: US ignores calls for negotiations at its own peril:
"Huge swathes of the world want the war in Ukraine to end as soon as
possible. Can Washington afford to disregard them?" Brazilian president
Lula da Silva "sparked a controversy" when he said the US "needs to stop
encouraging war and start talking about peace." A US spokesman replied
that "Lula's comments amounted to little more than 'Russian and Chinese
propaganda.'" The Americans aren't even to the stage of pretending they'
care about peace. Granted, Russia isn't at that stage either, but why
should that stop the US from offering the prospect of a future where
the present conflict is dead and buried? Failure to do so suggests that
the real US goal isn't to defend Ukraine but to destroy Russia -- which
is the belief, and fear, of most hawkish Russians. The Ukrainian position
that they'll only talk after Russia fully withdraws is similarly
Echols also interviewed John Sopko in: [02-21]
Afghanistan watchdog: 'You're gonna see pilferage' of Ukraine aid.
No doubt. It happens everywhere else -- the Pentagon is notoriously
unable to keep track of their own allocations. Opponents of US support
for Ukraine have latched on this, hoping to discredit the war effort
by taint of scandal (see Kelly Beaucar Vlahos: [04-20]
Republican lawmakers to Biden: no more 'unrestrained aid' to Ukraine.
It doesn't mean there should be no aid, but it's always important to
stay vigilant against corruption (Afghanistan and Iraq being prime
examples, but same thing was endemic in Vietnam).
Joshua Frank: [04-21]
Will the West Turn Ukraine Into a Nuclear Battlefield? Specifically,
he's talking about the use of depleted uranium shells, which are
effective for penetrating tank armor, but are also radioactive and
toxic ("depleted" means they are pure U-238, after the slightly more
fissile U-235 isotopes have been removed). Depleted uranium was used
extensively by the US in Iraq in 1991 and 2003, where it caused
cancer, both in Iraqis and in US troops.
Jen Kirby: [04-22]
So what's the deal with Ukraine's spring offensive? While it can
be said that both sides are refusing to negotiate based on the
hopes that they can still improve their territorial positions with an
offensive once conditions permit, Ukraine's hopes are slightly better
grounded: they made net gains around Kharkiv and Kherson in the fall;
they've withstood Russian efforts to capture Bakhmut (in one of those
classic "destroy the village to save it" operations); they've gained
tanks and other weapons for offensive operations. A year ago, Russia
was on offense, and Ukraine was pinned down, focusing on defending
its capital, Kyiv, while giving ground in the south, including Kherson
and Mariupol. I question whether their offensive will be much more
successful than Russia's, especially when it comes to areas that have
been effectively part of Russia since 2014, but it's not unusual for
people to have to learn their limits the hard way.
Branko Marcetic: [04-21]
Why is Facebook censoring Sy Hersh's NordStream report?
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [04-17]
Lieven inside Ukraine: some real breaks, and insights.
Other stories around the world:
Kenneth Chang: [04-20]
SpaceX's Starship 'Learning Experience' Ends in Explosion: Elon
Musk's biggest erection yet blew up a few minutes after liftoff, but
somehow nearly every article has followed the company line that the
disastrous failure is really just a "learning experience." It's true
that there is a hip management culture in Silicon Valley that sees
taking risks as something to be encouraged, and it's always important
to learn from mistakes, but you usually want to keep your test cases
small and discrete, and do them in ways you can easily observe.
Piling several billion dollars worth of hardware up and blowing it
up 24 miles into space is far from ideal, which makes the spin seem
a bit desperate.
Jay Caspian Kang: [04-21]
Has Black Lives Matter changed the world?: "A new book makes the
case for a more pragmatic anti-policing movement -- one that seeks to
build working-class solidarity across racial lines." The book is by
Cedric Johnson: After Black Lives Matter.
Rebecca Leber: [04-19]
Why Asia's early heat wave is so alarming: This should probably
be the biggest story of the week. With no further references in my
usual sources, I looked more explicitly and found:
Will Leitch: [04-18]
The Sports-Betting Ads Are Awful, and They're Not Going Away.
Just because something is legal (in the sense of not being illegal),
doesn't mean you should be able to advertise it everywhere (or for
that matter, anywhere). One critical thing that distinugishes
advertising from free speech is that it almost always appears as
a sales proposition -- this is every bit as true for political as
for deodorant ads -- which means that mistruths should be prosecuted
as fraud. Still, the gray areas, where they dance around the truth,
or say one thing while implying another (like when big pharma ads
list side-effects while everyone keeps smiling), is often worse.
I think this is basically true for everything, but gambling has
got to be one of the worst things you could possibly advertise.
It's not just that gamblers lose (while foolishly led to believe
they won't), or that the people who take their money are among
the most undeserving and unscrupulous of racketeers, but that the
very idea that one should so disrespect one's hard-earned labor
destroys the soul.
I should add a personal note: When I was a child, I noticed that
most TV shows were sponsored ("brought to you by") big corporations,
which splashed their names about, taking full credit for things I
enjoyed, and mostly selling things I could imagine my family buying.
Then I saw a list of America's biggest companies, and noticed that
insurance companies were huge, but hadn't been buying TV advertising.
So I wished that they would share some wealth and contribute to my
entertainment . . . until they did, and I was shocked and disgusted
by their sales pitch. That's when I decided some things should not
be advertised. Of course, lots of services couldn't be advertised
back then, like lawyers. Later, cigarette advertising was banned,
and that turned out all to the good.
Back in the 1970s, I wound up doing a fair amount of work behind
the scenes in advertising. I read numerous books on the subject
(notably David Ogilvy). I came to respect the craft, creativity,
art, and science of the industry -- the latter was built on the
social sciences, which was my major in college, and something I
viewed with an especially critical eye. Of course, I also came to
be repulsed by the whole business. While there needs to be ways
for honest businesses to make the public aware of their products
and services, our current system of advertising does much more
harm than good. And depending on advertisers to support essential
public services like journalism (see Robinson below) does even
more harm. So ban it all. But sports betting would be a particularly
good place to start.
Jasmine Liu: [04-21]
On the Road With the Ghost of Ashli Babbitt: "Jeff Sharlet saw
close up how the far right has used grief and bitterness to grow its
ranks." Interview with Sharlet, whose new book is: The Undertow:
Scenes From a Slow Civil War.
Samantha Oltman/Brian Resnick/Adam Clark Estes/Bryan Walsh:
The 100-year-old mistake that's reshaping the American West: "What
happens if the Colorado River keeps drying up?" Introduction to a new
batch of articles.
David Quammen: [04-23]
Why Dead Birds Are Falling From the Sky: Another pandemic may
be just around the future (or if you're a bird, already here).
Nathan J Robinson: Also look for Buzzfeed above.
We Can't Overstate the Danger of Tom Cotton's "Might Makes Right"
Foreign Policy: The Arkansas Republican Senator has a new book
out, called Only the Strong: Reversing the Left's Plot to Sabotage
American Power, arguing that "Democrats are insufficiently
militaristic" (an argument Robinson derides as "laughable," citing
examples from Truman to Obama). Given that US foreign policy is
already massively, if not admittedly, tilted in the direction that
Cotton advocates -- naked projection of power for purely selfish
ends, the only thing extra he's advocating is that US power should
be utterly shameless (regarding purely self-interested motives) and
unapologetic (regarding collateral damages) -- a foreign policy which
was only seriously attempted by Germany and Japan in WWII (although
Israel seems to think in those terms, which is why American neocons
are so enamored, but somewhat more limited given their lack of size).
While there is something to be said for cutting out the hypocrisy
about democracy and freedom -- things Cotton has no desire to preserve
domestically, let alone anywhere else -- such frankness would make it
even harder to command alliances, and would only increase the resolve
of those inclined to resist US dictates. Cotton seems to think that
the only thing that has held kept his strategy from dominating is the
pathetic wobbliness of lily-livered Democrats.
Homelessness Is an Entirely Solvable Problem: "Whether we let
people have houses is a choice we make." Also: "Shocking, I know.
The more expensive a place is, the more people struggle to afford
housing, and the more they struggle to afford housing, the more
likely they are to be unhoused."
On Experiencing Joe Rogan: This is a bit old, but probably all you
need to know.
Priya Satia: [04-18]
Born Imperial: The lingering ghosts of the British Empire. Review
of Sathnam Sanghera: Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern
Jeffrey St Clair: [04-21]
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Unfortunate Things: Opens with a
bit about Dr. Bruce Jessen ("the CIA's torture shrink"), before moving
on to the Dominion-Fox settlement, which winds up noting Rupert Murdoch's
lobbying the British to nuke China rather than giving up Hong Kong, and
on to other topics. "[US Supreme Court Justice Clarence] Thomas isn't
being bribed to make decisions; he's being rewarded for the fact that
he'd make these decisions without being bribed. So would Alito." This
is actually a common model, but is more conspicuous with Supreme Court
justices, as their lifetime appointments don't allow a tasteful wait
until retirement. Clinton and Obama earned their post-presidential
fortunes for their service to an oligarchy they made all the richer.
Michael Tomasky: [04-23]
Here's the Gutsy, Unprecedented Campaign Biden and the Democrats Need
to Run: Here's the guy who thought Obama would be transformational.
(Or was that Robert Kuttner? Similar thinkers who get a bit myopic when
they get their hopes up.) The one thing Tomasky is right is that Democrats
need to win big in 2024 in order to get a chance to deliver on whatever
it is they campaign on, big or small. And while I'm reasonably comfortable
that Biden can beat Trump, DeSantis, Pence, or the lower echelon of GOP
apparatchiki, he's not very good at explaining why a solid majority of
Americans should vote for him, and he's not what you'd call charismatic.
The only thing that distinguishes him from the next 20-30 contenders is
that he's acceptable to both the party rank-and-file and to the moneybags
who'd sabotage the election to make sure no one too far left got in.
Still, two problems here. One is that the laundry list of bills isn't
all that big or helpful. Free opioid clinics and adding dental coverage
to Medicare are tiny compared to Medicare for All. New laws to limit
monopolies and to encourage unions could help, but will take some time
to gain traction. Why not a Worker's Bill of Rights, which would combine
some of these things (minimum wage, overtime) with some other recent
proposals (like parental leave and prohibiting NDAs) with some more
ideas that are overdue (like rebalancing arbitration systems)? What
about a Reproductive Health Act, which would guarantee the right to
abortion, and also provide universal insurance for pregnancy and early
infancy? And why not combine marijuana legalization/regulation with
pain clinics that could finally make some headway on opioids (not
that pot is a panacea here; sometimes opioids are needed,
but legal ones, administered under care with counseling)? And there's
still a lot more work to do on infrastructure, climate change, and
disaster relief. And if you really want to wow minds, why not work
for world peace, instead of dedicating US foreign policy to arms
sales (like Trump did, although one can argue that Biden is even
better at it)?
Still, I doubt that policy ideas, no matter how coherent and
bold, are the key to winning elections. Sure, eventually you have to
do something worthwhile (which is why Republican regimes never last:
they get elected in a wave of good feeling, then invariably spoil
it within 8-12 years), but first you need to get people (who don't
understand much about policy) to trust you to do the right things,
and not just sell out to private donor interests. Granted, like the
campers running from a bear, the Democrat should only have to be
faster than the Republican, but appearing less crooked is trickier
than you'd expect, as proven by Hillary Clinton's loss to Trump on
just that issue.
Brian Walsh: [04-19]
Are 8 billion people too many -- or too few? Wrong question, as
the writer (if not the titlist) realizes. No time for a disquisition
here, but the goal should never be to see how many people you can
cram into Malthusian misery, but to figure out how to reduce the
misery of those who we do have, then try to sustain that.
Thursday, April 20, 2023
Shopping for scanners:
- Brother ADS-2800W Wireless 50 sheet duplex: $549.99 [LH-3] [sane]
- Fujitsu fi800R dual auto feeders: $469.28
- Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1300 Wireless/USB double sided, auto and manual feeders: $269.99 (fujitsu-sane "good")
- Brother ADS-2200 Desktop: $? [LH.2]
- Brother ADS-4700W Professional wireless/ethernet duplex: $469.89 [LH-4]
- Brother ADS-1700W Wireless/USB: $269.99 [LH.1]
- Brother ADS-1250W Wireless/USB: $249.99
- Canon ?
- Canon imageFormula R10 duplex 20 page: $174.00
I also looked at a few flatbed scanners:
- Plustek OpticSilm 2700: $129.90
Monday, April 17, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 63 albums, 5 A-list,
Music: Current count 40031  rated (+63), 54  unrated (-4: 26 new, 28 old).
Not only hit but blew right past the 40,000 rated albums mark
this week. I noted the moment in a tweet on Friday (4/14). The
database introduction and genre breakdown is
here. Most of this framework
dates back to the early 2000s, when I was scouring the album guides
for prospects. Perhaps some of the genres should be divided up more,
especially by time, but I keep thinking that a better solution would
be a better tagged database -- a project that always seems to be
slipping away into the future.
Records below are primarily non-jazz: probably the first week
all year. I added a lot of stuff to my
2023 tracking file, so I've had
a lot to pick from. Given how many records by reputable artists
I heard, I'm surprised that so far hit the A- mark -- especially
the three A records from Robert Christgau's
Consumer Guide (which I played at least three times each).
Some of those I had played earlier (recently: Willie Nelson, 100
Gecs; others way back: Oranj Symphonette, Wayne Shorter. By the
way, my pick of the Shorter Blue Notes is Night Dreamer,
although the one I really recommend is The Classic Blue Note
Recordings (2-CD, 2002). My Shorter list is
that, his albums with Art Blakey and Miles Davis are often great,
and his albums with Weather Report never are.
Seems like a lot of musicians have been dying recently, but few
as notable as Ahmad Jamal (1930-2023). He almost exclusively recorded
in trios, something I'm not a big fan of, but if you look at
my list, you'll
find A- records scattered over four decades, and also notice that
I missed a lot in between.
Technically, the Christian McBride album missed my cutoff, but
I decided to include it here because I thought I should have more
good new releases, and because it shows you what Marcus Strickland
can do when he's not recording his own albums.
Rough day today, especially with eyes and allergies. Former
will probably clear up (though cataract surgery is likely in the
future), and latter will probably get worse.
Wrote another monster
Speaking of Which over the weekend. Kicked out a
tweet this morning when I saw a particularly laughable op-ed:
I see Robert M Gates has an op-ed called "US needs to relearn how to
tell its story to the world." Actually, the US needs a better story.
Like, one that doesn't start with: sanction our enemies, buy our arms,
and if you do, we'll excuse any human rights offenses.
The US had a better (but still imperfect) story before WWII, when
an elite group of foreign policy wonks decided that America should
save the world by running it, or alternatively that America should
save colonialism by converting it to global capitalism, allowing
natives to hold "independent" political posts subject to the tight
credit controls of the World Bank and IMF.
New records reviewed this week:
- 100 Gecs: 10,000 Gecs (2023, Dog Show/Atlantic): [sp]: B+(*)
- 100 Gecs: Snake Eyes (2022, Dog Show/Atlantic, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
- Arooj Aftab/Vijay Iyer/Shahzad Ismaily: Love in Exile (2023, Verve): [sp]: B+(**)
- Florian Arbenz/Greg Osby/Arno Krijger: Conversation #9: Targeted (2023, Hammer): [bc]: B+(***)
- Florian Arbenz/Jorge Vistel/Wolfgang Puschnig/Oren Marshall/Michael Arbenz: Conversation #8: Ablaze (2022, Hammer): [bc]: B+(***)
- Gina Birch: I Play My Bass Loud (2023, Third Man): [sp]: B+(***)
- Bktherula: LVL5 P1 (2023, Warner, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
- Peter Brötzmann/Heather Leigh/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Naked Nudes [Brötz 80th at ADA 2021] (2021 , Trost): [bc]: B+(*)
- Tom Collier: Boomer Vibes Volume 1 (2023, Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
- Miley Cyrus: Endless Summer Vacation (2023, Columbia): [sp]: B+(**)
- Jesse Davis: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (2022 , Cellar): [sp]: B+(**)
- Angel Bat Dawid: Requiem for Jazz (2019-20 , International Anthem): [sp]: B
- Michael Dease: The Other Side: The Music of Gregg Hill (2022 , Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
- Lana Del Rey: Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd (2023, Interscope/Polydor): [sp]: B+(**)
- Marc Ducret: Palm Sweat: Marc Ducret Plays the Music of Tim Berne (2022 , Screwgun/Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(***)
- Bokani Dyer: Radio Sechaba (2023, Brownswood): [cd]: B+(**) [05-12]
- Vince Ector Organotomy Trio +: Live @ the Side Door (2020 , Cabo Verde): [cd]: B+(**)
- El Michels Affair & Black Thought: Glorious Game (2023, Big Crown): [sp]: A-
- Emperor X: Suggested Improvements to Transportation Infrastructure in the Northeast Corridor (2023, Dreams of Field, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
- Nick Finzer: Dreams Visions Illusions (2022 , Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Robbie Fulks: Bluegrass Vacation (2023, Compass): [sp]: B+(***)
- Girl Scout: Real Life Human Garbage (2023, Made, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
- The Hold Steady: The Price of Progress (2023, Positive Jams): [sp]: A-
- JPEGMafia x Danny Brown: Scaring the Hoes (2023, AWAL): [sp]: B+(*)
- Larry June and the Alchemist: The Great Escape (2023, Empire): [sp]: B+(*)
- Jason Kush: Finally Friday (2021 , MCG Jazz): [cd]: B+(***)
- Julian Lage: The Layers (2022 , Blue Note, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
- Las Vegas Boneheads: Sixty and Still Cookin' (2023, Curt Miller Music): [cd]: B
- Mark Lewis: Sunlight Shines In (2019 , Audio Daddio): [cd]: B+(**)
- Brandon Lopez: Vilevilevilevilevilevilevilevile (2023, Tao Forms): [cd]: B+(**)
- Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra: Lightning Dreamers (2021 , International Anthem): [sp]: B+(**)
- Christian McBride's New Jawn: Prime (2021 , Mack Avenue): [sp]: A-
- Francisco Mela Featuring Cooper-Moore and William Parker: Music Frees Our Souls Vol. 2 (2020 , 577): [dl]: B+(***)
- Gurf Morlix: Caveman (2022, Rootball): [sp]: B+(**)
- Gurf Morlix: I Challenge the Beast (2023, Rootball): [sp]: B+(***)
- Willie Nelson: I Don't Know a Thing About Love: The Songs of Harlan Howard (2023, Legacy): [sp]: B+(**)
- Billy Nomates: Cacti (2023, Invada): [sp]: B+(**)
- Grant Peeples: A Murder of Songs (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
- Caroline Polachek: Desire, I Want to Turn Into You (2023, Perpetual Novice): [sp]: B+(*)
- Quasi: Breaking the Balls of History (2023, Sub Pop): [sp]: B-
- Joakim Rainer Trio: Light.Sentence (2021 , Sonic Transmissions): [sp]: B+(**)
- Rent Romus/Heikki Koskinen: Itkuja Suite, Invocations on Lament (2022 , Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
- Ryuichi Sakamoto: 12 (2023, Milan): [sp]: B
- Cécile McLorin Salvant: Mélusine (2023, Nonesuch): [sp]: B+(*)
- Sleaford Mods: UK Grim (2023, Rough Trade): [sp]: B+(***)
- Peter Smith Trio: Dollar Dreams (2022 , Real Magic): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bruce Springsteen: Only the Strong Survive (2022, Columbia): [sp]: B
- Marcus Strickland Twi-Life: The Universe's Wildest Dream (2023, Strick Music): [bc]: B+(*)
- Lukas Traxel: One-Eyed Daruma (2023, We Jazz): [sp]: B+(***)
- The Tubs: Dead Meat (2023, Trouble in Mind): [sp]: B+(*)
- Luis Vicente 4tet: House in the Valley (2021 , Clean Feed): [sp]: B+(**)
- Waco Brothers: The Men That God Forgot (2023, Plenty Tuff): [sp]: B+(**)
- Yaeji: With a Hammer (2023, XL): [sp]: B+(*)
- Young Fathers: Heavy Heavy (2023, Ninja Tune): B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Jeff Johnson: My Heart (1991 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**) [04-21]
- JuJu: A Message From Mozambique (1972 , Strut): [sp]: A-
- Mose Allison: The Word From Mose Allison (1964, Atlantic): [sp]: A-
- Mose Allison: Mose Allison Sings (1957-59 , Prestige): [sp]: B+(***)
- Derek Bailey/George Lewis/John Zorn: Yankees (1982 , Ceklluloid): [r]: B
- Jeppe Zeeberg: It's the Most Basic Thing You Can Do on a Boat (2014, Barefoot): [sp]: B+(***)
- Jeppe Zeeberg: Riding on the Boogie Woogie of Life (2015, Barefoot): [sp]: B+(**)
- Jeppe Zeeberg: The Four Seasons (2017, Barefoot): [sp]: B+(*)
- Jeppe Zeeberg: Eight Seemingly Unrelated Pieces of Piano Music (2018, Barefoot): [bc]: A-
- Jeppe Zeeberg: Universal Disappointment (2019, self-released): [sp]: B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Richard X Bennett & Matt Parker: Parker Plays X (BYNK) [05-13]
- George Coleman: Live at Smalls Jazz Club (Cellar) [05-19]
- Les DeMerle: Sound 67: Once in a Lifetime (1967, Origin) [04-21]
- Lauren Henderson: Conjuring (Brontosaurus) [04-21]
- Jeff Johnson: My Heart (1991, Origin) [04-21]
- Jason Keiser: Shaw's Groove (OA2) [04-21]
- John Pizzarelli: Stage & Screen (Palmetto) [04-21]
- Alex Weitz: Rule of Thirds (Outside In Music) [04-28]
Sunday, April 16, 2023
Speaking of Which
While writing this, I threw out the following tweet:
Thinking about major patterns in American history: one is that progressive
change often leads to reaction, which in turn inevitably falls into
dysfunction and catastrophe, necessitating further progressive change.
First pass omitted "often" and "inevitably," but I had more characters
to work with. I was thinking about adding a clause to the effect that
the trick will be to sell progressive change so broadly and deeply that
reaction won't be able to take root. Past progressive periods have had
lasting impact, even once power shifted to opposing forces. Often,
as in FDR's successful switch of focus to WWII or in LBJ's Vietnam War
debacle, power shifted mostly due to other factors. Republicans have
often been granted grace periods on the assumption that they wouldn't
really do the awful things they campaigned for -- at least that they
wouldn't do them to their own voters. On the other hand, reactionaries
are directly responsible for their disastrous turns, because the
stratified societies and repressive governments they favor are
inherently destabilizing and suicidal.
This meme showed up in my Facebook feed, forwarded by a dear friend
who's not known for lefty politics. Title is: "Shocking Things Liberals
Believe." The list:
- People working 40 hours a week should not live in poverty.
- CEOs should not receive 3,000 times the pay of their workers.
- Wall Street gangsters should go to prison when they steal.
- No child should ever have to worry about being shot at school.
- No one, especially veterans, should be homeless.
- There should not be subsidies for profitable corporations.
- Equal rights and equal pay should be the benchmark for all Americans.
- Politicians should not dictate medical decisions for women.
- Lobbyists should not be allowed to bribe our representatives.
- Companies should not be permitted to trash the earth for profit.
- Healthcare should be given to all, not be a luxury for rich people.
- Everyone should have access to higher education.
That's certainly not an exhaustive list, but nothing there I'd
nitpick much less argue against. I'm not sure I'd describe liberals
thusly, but if liberals are serious about protecting their idea of
individual liberty, they need to get behind an agenda that does a
much better job of securing basic rights, including Roosevelt's
"freedom from want" and "freedom from fear," than America does now.
Top story threads:
Mariana Alfaro: [04-12]
Trump sues former counsel Michael Cohen for $500 million: This one
is pretty extreme, even for Trump. Has any defendant ever sued a witness
before the trial? For a follow up, see Igor Derysh: [04-14]
Experts say Trump's lawsuit against Michael Cohen could badly backfire,
where he quotes Cohen: "I can't believe how stupid he was to have actually
filed it." Looking forward to the countersuit.
Zack Beauchamp: [04-14]
The far left and far right agree on Donald Trump's foreign policy legacy.
They're both wrong. Not really a lot of evidence on either side --
his "far left" citation is Christian Parenti: [04-07]
Trump's Real Crime Is Opposing Empire -- a ridiculous piece, but
one could argue that "[Trump] has done more to restrain the US imperium
than any politician in 75 years" is true if only by default. I cited
a similar argument from
Chris Hedges a few weeks back, but very few on the left see Trump
as anything more than a reckless, incompetent blowhard. As for the
right, there has long existed an anti-interventionist sentiment, with
even the occasional odd member of Congress (like Ron Paul). While some
of these people had a soft spot for Trump (one who tried very hard to
like Trump was the late Justin Raimondo), they generally regard him
as having been captured by the Deep State he supposedly opposes.
Victoria Bekiempis: [04-13]
Reid Hoffman Is Funding E. Jean Carroll's Lawsuit Against Donald
Trump. Trump's lawyers are whining, but author points out that
Hoffman's former business partner Peter Thiel has been doing the
same thing: funding lawsuits against political foes. I'm reminded
of Clinton-nemesis Richard Mellon Scaife. And since when does "a
recent indictment" support delaying an unrelated trial?
Jonathan Chait: [04-16]
Why Liberals Should Hope DeSantis Beats Trump: "The phrase 'lesser
evil' very much applies here." No, it doesn't. As evils go, this is a
distinction not worth making. Humphrey v. Nixon was a "lesser evil";
Gore v. Bush was a "lesser evil"; Hillary Clinton v. Trump was another
"lesser evil," perhaps with the gap growing. DeSantis v. Trump is like
picking between Hitler and Goebbels (and note that you can argue who's
who either way). Moreover, for those of us who are not Republicans,
it's not our place or in our interest to favor one Republican over any
other. Even if Republicans can't be sure of always nominating the worst
possible candidate, they do hit that mark pretty often. What Democrats
have to do is to prepare to beat anyone the Republicans throw at them.
Josh Dawsey: [04-16]
Trump, facing probes, seeks to assert dominance over GOP at donor
Margaret Hartmann: [04-14]
Trump's Ron DeSantis 'Pudding Fingers' Ad Is Disgustingly Good.
For disgusting but less good, you can check out
some anti-Trump ads from the pro-DeSantis PAC Never Back Down.
reports that when someone types "Ron DeSantis" into Google, the
first suggestion is "pudding."
David Margolick: [04-14]
Donald Trump Sinks to a New Low by Dog-Whistling an Old Racist
Nikki McCann Ramirez: [04-11]
Trump Says Court Staff at Arraignment Cried and Apologized.
Kelly McClure: [04-14]
Trump speaks at NRA convention days after mass shootings [and
a day or two before the next]: Seems unfair to single out the timing
of this speech given that there are more mass shootings than days,
so you never have to look back more than one or two to find an
inappropriate moment. More troublesome is the content of the speech.
Link here to a related piece, by Amanda Marcotte: [03-29]
Trump wants Americans to think society is an apocalyptic wasteland:
Mass shootings help him.
Chris Walker: [04-14]
Trump made $160 million in foreign business deals as president:
"Trump repeatedly broke his promise that his company wouldn't make
new foreign business deals while he was in office." Bear this in
mind next time someone complains that Trump's only being prosecuted
for technicalities. He's lucky if that's all they get him for.
Li Zhou: [04-12]
The standoff between Jim Jordan and Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, explained:
"House Republicans are going after the DA's work on Trump's indictment.
Bragg is fighting back."
Ryan Cooper: [04-13]
Republicans' Self-Inflicted Budget Impasse: "The GOP discovers that
shouting lies on television is not a good way to figure out how to tax
and spend." Further down: "It turns out to be quite difficult to operate
a political party made up of 75 percent crack-brained yahoo attention
hounds, whose voters are 'egged on by a media apparatus that has trained
its audience to demand the impossible and punish the sell-outs who can't
deliver,' in the words of
Alex Pareene." Pareene also wrote (back in 2017): "Donald Trump today
is a cruel dolt turned into a raving madman by cable news and Breitbart.com."
Yeah, but four years later he's much further gone.
Gabriella Ferrigne: [04-14]
New docs reveal racist messages by man Abbott wants to pardon in BLM
protester killing: "Daniel Perry repeatedly made racist comments
and discussed plans to kill people."
David French: [04-13]
How Tennessee Illustrates the Three Rules of MAGA: I hadn't seen
this formulation before: "First, that before Trump the G.O.P. was a
political doormat, helplessly walked over by Democrats time and again.
Second, that we live in a state of cultural emergency where the right
has lost everywhere and must turn to politics to reverse this cultural
momentum. And third, that in this state of emergency, all conservatives
must rally together. There can be no enemies to the right." Like so
much Republican drivel, it's hard to pick which thread to unravel
first. But sure, I suppose you can divide the public sphere into
economics and culture. The focus on culture is convenient for many
Republicans because it distracts from the main thrust of Republican
policy going back to Reagan, which has been economic: to shift power
and wealth from labor and customers to business, leading to a massive
increase in inequality. It's easy to understand why Republicans don't
want people thinking about economics, except insofar as they can fob
blame off on Democrats (gas prices works for this, even though most
of the executives who profit from higher prices skew hard Republican).
Culture change, on the other hand, happens irrespective of politics,
which feeds into both their victimization complex and their sense of
Gabrielle Gurley: [04-13]
Tennessee Republicans Step Up Attacks on Democratic Cities:
"States rights" supposedly tries to bring government closer to the
people, but Republicans only want to decentralize power when the net
flow is in their favor. That's led to many cases of Republican-controlled
states limiting what mostly Democratic cities can do. Tennessee got a
reminder of that when the state legislature expelled representatives
from Memphis and Nashville, only to have them returned to office.
Josh Kovensky: [04-16]
Texas GOP Struggles Over What Crisis to Manufacture at Border.
The state legislature is pushing a bill that would declare that Texas
is being invaded from Mexico, authorizing a "state-run Border Patrol
Unit, empowered to deputize and train citizens, and to 'repel' and
'return' undocumented migrants seen crossing the border" (or, as
critics dubbed it, a "vigilante death squads policy").
Eric Levitz: [04-13]
Why the GOP Can't Moderate on Abortion Pill Bans: A big part of
this is tactics: they decided to equate abortion with murder, which
created a strong force dragging the law toward conception. And they
threw in a few more axioms which, again, couldn't be compromised.
And they billed themselves as the champion of the fetus, building
up what is essentially a single-issue voting bloc, one they cannot
afford to lose. They did pretty much the same thing with guns, so
again they're incapable of compromise. Any time you adopt a moral
absolute, you can only move toward that pure point. Any deviation
is seen as a sign of weakness, and Republicans can't bear to show
that. Their whole self-image is built up around resolute strength,
no matter how stupid that gets.
Jason Linkins: [04-15]
It's Really Quite Simple: Republicans Hate Young People. Scott
Walker blames "liberal indoctrination," but it's conservatives who
are legislating curricula and banning books. And banning abortion:
"Everywhere you look, Republicans are finding it very difficult to
actually run on the post-Roe dystopia they've engineered --
so much so that they're now trying to get people to just stop talking
Nicole Narea: [04-11]
Why these Democrats are defecting to the GOP: "Three Democratic
lawmakers in Louisiana and North Carolina switched parties recently."
Heather Digby Parton: [04-14]
Republicans, facing devastating fallout from "Dobbs effect," refuse to
quit abortion bans.
Bill Scher: [04-14]
Why DeSantis Should Take a Pass on the 2024 Presidential Election:
"The idea that the Florida governor could cinch the GOP nomination by
running as a competent, no-drama Donald Trump is fundamentally flawed."
[For a counter argument, see: Ross Douthat: [04-15]
Why DeSantis Has to Run.]
I wouldn't presume to offer advice, but I do think that last week's
Frank Luntz argument that Republicans want Trumpy policies without
Trump's personality, which is DeSantis in a nutshell, is exactly wrong --
something which I think DeSantis realizes, which is why he keeps trying
to fabricate media outrages like attacking Disney perks and trafficking
refugees from Texas to Martha's Vineyard. I doubt he'll succeed, but if
he has the money lined up, he might as well run. (Not that he needs to
rush it, as he's already getting the sort of press few candidates other
than Trump get.) If Trump beats him then loses, he'll have a case that
it should have been him. If DeSantis gets the nomination, 2024 against
Biden is probably his best timing.
Dylan Scott: [04-13]
Republicans want to force doctors to mislead patients about reversing
abortions: Kansas, in particular, though why anyone would go to the
trouble of taking a dose of mifepristone then change their mind and try
to get the effect reversed is hard to imagine. The much more likely
explanation is that Republicans just want to make the lives of women
seeking abortions as miserable as possible. By the way, there's more
evil brewing in the KS legislature, despite the fact that voters
overwhelmingly rejected their anti-abortion constitutional amendment.
Kyle Swenson: [04-16]
Iowa to spend millions kicking families off food stamps. More states
Michael Wines: [04-14]
If Tennessee's Legislature Looks Broken, It's Not Alone.
Li Zhou: [04-12]
The return of two expelled Tennessee Democrats is a powerful rebuke to
Matters of (in)justice: The long-brewing Clarence Thomas
scandal got so big last week I moved it out into its own section.
And, of course, other stories that could be filed here got slotted
under Trump or Other Republicans. Still much to report:
Li Zhou: [04-14]
Clarence Thomas's brazen violation of ethics rules, briefly
Shawn Boburg/Emma Brown: [04-16]
Clarence Thomas has for years claimed income from a defunct real estate
firm: "The misstatements . . . are part of a pattern that has raised
questions about how the Supreme Court justice views his obligation to
accurately report details about his finances to the public."
Jamelle Bouie: [04-14]
Harlan Crow, Clarence Tomas's Benefactor, Is Not Just Another
Billionaire: One thing that they're never perfectly clear on is
that it appears that the "garden of evil," where Crow keeps his statues
of fallen communist leaders, is distinct from where he keeps his Hitler
memorabilia. Bouie also wrote: [04-11]
Clarence Thomas Is as Free as Ever to Treat His Seat Like a Winning
Lottery Ticket: "Our leaders should be shackled by the power
they wield, not free to abuse it for their own interests and own
Justin Elliott/Joshua Kaplan/Alex Mierjeski: [04-13]
Billionaire Harlan Crow Bought Property From Clarence Thomas. The
Justice Didn't Disclose the Deal..
Ian Millhiser: [2011-06-23]
Second Harlan Crow Connected Group Has a Perfect Litigation Record
Before Justice Thomas. This should be old news, but Thomas continues
to insist that he's not corrupt because Crow hasn't had any business
before the Court. They're just, like, really good friends.
Alex Shephard: [04-14]
Conservatives Have Some Very Creative, Very Dumb Excuses for Clarence
Michael Tomasky: [04-10]
The Democrats Need to Destroy Clarence Thomas's Reputation: "They'll
never successfully impeach him. But so what? Make him a metaphor for
every insidious thing the far right has done to this country." I thought
talking about expanding the Supreme Court a few years back was premature,
not because I couldn't see the need, but Democrats lacked enough power
to act, and most people weren't yet convinced of its necessity. As the
bad rulings pile up, especially the loss of abortion rights, people are
coming around to seeing the need, but we still have to translate that
into political power. It's been pretty obvious to me for a long time
that the secret to keeping justices like Scalia and Thomas true to the
conservative cause has been back-channel payments, especially through
Ginni Thomas's lobbying. (Scalia, you may remember, was off on one of
his buddies' hunting safaris when he died.) So sure, pile on, especially
when scandals like Harlan Crow's favors are so blatant. Even if you
can't nail Thomas, you'll force other right-wingers to be a bit more
circumspect. And if they don't, you'll be that much closer to
rebalancing the Supreme Court.
And pay some attention to terms:
"packing" the Supreme Court is something the Republicans did over
decades, without having to advertise it as such. The result has
grossly distorted the court system, which is why rebalancing is
what is needed. We don't need or even want an activist Court. We
want one that is fair and flexible, one that defends the rights
in the Constitution, based on the principles they aspire to.
Republicans see their packed court system as a backstop in case
they lose legislative power, to thwart democracy in favor of their
By the way, Tomasky also wrote: [2022-12-22]
Clarence and Ginni Thomas Are The New Republic's 2022 Scoundrels
of the Year.
Matters of economy:
Dean Baker: [04-13]
Can Jerome Powell Pivot on Interest Rates, Again? Reminds us of
why Baker thought Powell deserved a second term, and offers hope that
as inflation abates he will "buck the conventional wisdom" and lower
interest rates to keep the economy strong. I felt that Biden made a
mistake -- as did Obama and Clinton in renominating the Republican
Fed chairmen they inherited -- in not picking a more reliable ally,
and so far I feel vindicated in my position.
Miles Bryan: [04-14]
The real reason prices aren't coming down: "Excuseflation"; another
new word here is "greedflation." Let me try: for many years now, at
least since the Bork reformulation of antitrust rules in the 1980s and
the mania of mergers and leveraged buyouts, markets have been becoming
less competitive, which means companies could demand higher
monopoly rents. But it didn't always happen, because price gouging
ticks people off, and threatens a backlash. However, the pandemic
produced a lot of supply-side glitches, which eventually coalesced
into a plausible excuse for raising prices. When the expectation of
higher prices sat in, the companies that could raise them without
losing significant market share did so. To the extent this is true,
the Fed isn't tackling the real causes of inflation. They're just
trying to beat it with their stick.
Meg Jacobs: [04-13]
The Forgotten Left Economics Tradition: "In the Progressive and
New Deal eras, there was a markedly different response to rising prices,
and a different usage of economic theory." I missed this one in
batch of American Prospect economics articles (under Stiglitz).
Robert Kuttner: [04-12]
Will the Fed Wreck an Improving Economy? Fed chairman Jerome Powell
says he's trying to control inflation, but sometimes he gives the
impression that the statistic he's tracking to decide when to let up
isn't inflation itself but unemployment. Kuttner also wrote: [04-13]
A Revolution in Cost-Benefit Rules: "How Biden's new team at the
Office of Management and Budget is reversing several decades of
pseudo-technical right-wing mischief."
Ukraine War: As far as I can tell, the leaks don't amount to
much. Granted, there are details they'd rather you not know, or not
talk about, and there are things they should find embarrassing, but
they don't amount to much.
Blaise Malley: [04-14]
Diplomacy Watch: Biden administration in 'damage control' after intel
leaks: "Leaders in Kyiv 'suspicious' of Washington's commitment to
Ukrainian counteroffensive." Little diplomacy to report, other than
that Pope Francis and Lula da Silva came out in favor, while Charles
Kupchan and Richard Haass have "laid out a
plan" to get to negotiations later while escalating now. It amazes
me that serious people can make such arguments. The only question on
negotiation is figuring out what each side really needs and what they
can reasonably give up. The big points -- that Putin's invasion failed,
that neither side can prevail on the battlefield, that the US and NATO
will resist any further Russian expansionism, and that sanctions aren't
a very effective deterrent -- should be pretty clear by now. The only
real stickler is territory, and there the offer has been obvious from
the start: let people in each disputed territory vote to decide on
their fate. There are a lot of technical problems with this: chiefly,
what are the boundaries of the territories in dispute, how refugees
from those territories can vote, timing, etc. But fair-minded people
can solve technical problems. Granted, neither side qualifies yet,
and that's something each needs to work on. But what won't work is
thinking that if only "we" (and this applies to either "we") can
grab a bit more leverage, we'll be able to bend the other side to
our will. Even unconditional surrender only works when the winning
side tries to do the right thing (as the US mostly did after WWII,
but as France/UK didn't do after WWI).
Chas Danner: [04-14]
What Secrets Are in the Leaked Pentagon Documents -- and Who Leaked
Robyn Dixon: [04-15]
Breaking up with Russia is hard for many Western firms, despite
war: "Only a small percentage of the hundreds of companies that
promised to leave Russia after its invasion of Ukraine have exited."
The Kyiv School of Economics "follows 3,141 foreign companies through
its Leave Russia project, reports that only 211 companies have exited --
fewer than 7 percent."
Marc Fisher: [04-15]
A new kind of leaker: Spilling state secrets to impress online
Anatol Lieven: [04-10]
Pentagon leak reinforces what we already know: US-NATO in it to win:
"But revelations about American and European boots on the ground are
new, and could prove a dangerous and so far unexplained wrinkle."
Ashleigh Subramanian-Montgomery: [04-10]
Even the Treasury Department admits sanctions don't work.
As the last section puts it: "Time for a sanctions rethink."
Elsewhere around the world:
Dean Baker: [04-15]
Quick Thoughts on AI and Intellectual Property: I haven't sorted
through all of this, but I'll add a few more thoughts. A lot of what
passes as creativity is really just the ability to pull disparate
ideas out of the ether and reconfigure them in pleasing ways. AI may
be hard pressed to come up with anything truly original, but it could
swamp the market for "creative" recombination: all it needs to do is
scan a lot of source material, then apply a few rules for sorting out
what works and what doesn't. If you gave AI copyright standing, you
could wind up with an automated trolling machine that would tie up
honest work in endless litigation. If you don't, well, humans could
use AI to vastly increase their production of copyrightable works,
and they could become just as litigious. Either way, it's a mess, but
the whole realm of "intellectual property" is a big legal mess even
before you add AI to the mix. And as Baker knows, the whole system
of enforcement is dead weight on the creative process.
David Dayen: [04-14]
The Feinstein Affair: Senate Gerontocracy Reaches Absurd Heights:
"Old senators, old rules, and old traditions all are cutting against
what should be a simple task of confirming judges."
EJ Dionne Jr: [04-16]
Gun absolutists don't trust democracy because they know they're
losing: The NRA held another convention last week, attended
virtually or physically by a phalanx of Republican presidential
hopefuls (Pence, Trump, and Asa Hutchinson in person; DeSantis,
Nikki Haley, and Tim Scott on video). "The nonsense floated in
Indianapolis -- based on the idea that our national addiction to
high-powered weaponry has nothing to do with America's unique mass
shooting problem -- speaks to a deep ailment in our democracy."
Oh, by the way:
Karen Greenberg: [04-11]
The Wars to End All Wars? In his introduction, editor Tom Engelhardt
reminds us that he started
TomDispatch in 2002 to protest
the "unnerving decision of President George W. Bush to respond to the
disastrous terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
by invading Afghanistan," adding "even then, it seemed to me like a
distinctly mad act." What's strange is that even though most observers
admit that twenty-plus years of "war on terror" have hurt America more
than they've helped, we seem to be further away than ever from a world
where demilitarized peace is possible. Greenberg, who first got drawn
into the legal morass of Guantanamo (I read her 2009 book, The
Least Worst Place: Guantanamo's First 100 Days), has a 2021 book,
Subtle Tools: The Dismantling of American Democracy From the War
on Terror to Donald Trump, which connects the dots between 9/11
and such Trump abuses his Muslim ban, border policing, his killing
of Iranian General Soleimani, his reaction to BLM protests, and his
Elahe Izadi/Jeremy Barr/Sarah Ellison: [04-16]
The Dominion vs. Fox defamation case is finally going to trial.
As much as I hate defamation lawsuits in general, this one is
exposing grievous malfeasance and public harm in a forums that
will be hard to ignore. Key line here: "But First Amendment
advocates aren't convinced that a Fox loss is bad for journalism --
and think Dominion has a much stronger case than most defamation
plaintiffs." Also quotes Floyd Abrams: "The journalistic sins,
which have already been exposed here, are so grievous and so
indefensible that a victory for Fox will be hard to explain to
the public." Also:
Paul Krugman: [04-11]
Inequality Ahoy! On the Meaning of the Superyacht. Krugman used
yachts as a measure of inequality in his book The Conscience of a
Liberal (2007), contrasting how much yachts had shrunk during
the "great compression" of the 1930-60s, compared to the Gilded Age
extravagances of J.P. Morgan. Well, yachts are back now, bigger and
gaudier than ever, including the one Clarence Thomas has enjoyed.
Also on yachts:
Eric Levitz: [04-10]
Blaming 'Capitalism' Is Not an Alternative to Solving Problems.
Basically, a brief for social democratic reforms as opposed to the
belief that only a revolution can root out the core problem that is
capitalism. I've long felt that revolutions only occur the old system
is too rigid and brittle to adjust to popular pressure, and therefore
shatters. Russia in 1917, for instance, was less the "weak link of
capitalism" than an autocratic regime locked into a disastrous war
and incapable of reforming. A second point is that violence begets
violence, and the more violence continues beyond revolution, the
more doomed a revolution is to recapitulate the old regime. Levitz
cites a bunch of statistics to show that very few Americans are
disposed toward revolution, but the more relevant point is that
the American political system is flexible enough to reform, if not
to a point we can recognize as social democracy, than at least
enough to preclude the violent rupture of revolution. (Of course,
if you allow Trump and the Republicans sufficient power, all bets
On the other hand, while "blaming capitalism" isn't a practical
political program, it does give one some clarity. Capitalism may
tout free markets and free labor and maybe even freedom as an ideal,
but it simply means that the profits go to the owners of capital --
a class who of necessity seek insatiably to maximize their returns,
not least by manipulating the political system. Every word in that
sentence is important, but "insatiable" (i.e., the felt need for
infinite growth) is the crux of the problem, as it leads to two
things that destabilize and destroy their world: a class system
and environmental degradation. It is, of course, possible to limit
those catastrophes through political reform, but doing so detracts
from pure capitalism. This is why true capitalists regard anything
that stands in the way of their quest for profits as socialism, a
betrayal of all they believe in.
Adam Nagourney/Jeremy W Peters: [04-16]
How a Campaign Against Transgender Rights Mobilized Conservatives:
And elevated a political issue that could easily have been ignored
into a defense of basic human rights. I've often wondered how many
people we're talking about: "About 1.3 million adults and 300,000
children in the United States identify as transgender." That's about
0.5% of the US adult population, and 0.4% of 0-17 children (up to
1.4% of 15-17 children). That's not a lot of people to get so worked
up about. But that's the point of the issue: it's a symbolic issue
that a few Republicans seized on as a way to revitalize the cause of
religious bigotry. And by the way, they've done more to publicize
and promote acceptance of transgender people more quickly than any
positive movement could.
By the way, if you'd like to meet some transgender people, take
a look at:
These 12 Transgender Americans Would Love You to Mind Your Own
Business. This is part of a series I entered through
What Happened to America? We Asked 12 People in Their 70s and 80s.
The latter cohort was pretty evenly divided politically (although
neither Donald Trump nor Diane Feinstein fared very well). But no
Republicans in the transgender group.
Charles P Pierce: The Esquire columnist comments on
a number of stories I've filed elsewhere:
Ben Schwartz: [04-14]
How Woke Bob Hope Got Canceled by the Right: "The conservative
comedian spoke out for gay rights and gun control, and got boycotted
and ostracized by friends on the right, including Ronald Reagan."
I'm a little surprised to see Hope labelled a conservative. Sure, he
was of a generation when it was easy to get jingoistic about America,
and I got tired of his USO shows, as he continued to associate with
a military that had gone off the rails in Vietnam, but he always
seemed like a decent-enough guy. And one thing was pretty unique
about him, which is that nearly all of his characters were shameless
cowards. He was, in this, the antithesis of John Wayne, who really
was a conservative asshole.
Jeffrey St Clair: [04-14]
Annals of the Covert World: The Secret Life of Shampoo: "The
surveillance state is both more sinister and much sillier than most
of us imagine."
Monday, April 10, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 41 albums, 8 (or 10) A-list,
Music: Current count 39968  rated (+41), 58  unrated (+6: 30 new, 28 old).
I wrote a pretty long
Speaking of Which yesterday. If you missed it, I suggest that you
at least read the introduction, which starts to explain the psychotic
breakdown Republicans suffered last week. There was a time when
Republicans claimed to be the "law and order" party, as well as
being staunch "defenders of freedom." But in following their single
issue bets (e.g., on guns and abortion) to their logical ends,
they've entered into territory that can only be called psychotic.
But don't get me started again here. Read the piece. And it wouldn't
hurt to like, reply, and/or forward the tweet. View count is currently
127, whereas my Music Week tweets regularly top 300, probably because
they do get the occasional like and retweet.
This week's haul continues recent week trends: lots of old jazz,
mostly suggested by my
Penguin Guide unheard 4-star list.
I finished Z with John Zorn. (His Tzadik records were on Rhapsody
for a while, but were taken down several years ago, and are well
nigh impossible for me to come by these days.) That leaves eight
various artists comps, which came from early editions of the Guide
(as they stopped covering them), so they are probably impossible
to find. That still leaves 615 albums unheard on the list.
worth another pass, but most of them fall into big clusters: old
comps of classic artists (Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke
Ellington, Teddy Wilson; the French Classics label has disappeared
from Napster), that I largely skipped because those editions are out
of print, and in most cases I've heard other editions; lots of obscure
free (AMM, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Cecil Taylor) and (mostly British)
trad jazz records; boxes not deemed cost-effective; other labels that
refuse to play ball with the streaming rackets (like Tzadik); and back
catalog the cooperating labels haven't gotten around to (Concord is
one that particularly bothers me). I did just find a Mose Allison
album I had missed. Still unlikely I'l whittle the list down much
The Live at Dreher set led me to file separate grades for
the earlier editions, especially as one appears under Mal Waldron
and the other under Steve Lacy. Not really separate grades, as the
four discs just delight on and on. But no point picturing the older
Rated count could pass 40,000 next week. I'm currently 32 short,
which is a fairly average week's work for me. Main thing that may
distract me is that we're in the brief season between too cold and
too hot, so it would be opportune to do some house/yard projects.
In house it's mostly decluttering, starting with
I finished Michael Tomasky's The Middle Out: The Rise of Progressive
Economics and a Return to Shared Prosperity, which is one of the best
recent books directly tied to current Democratic Party politics. In that
same vein, I also recommend Ryan Cooper's How Are You Going to Pay for
That? Smart Answers to the Dumbest Questions in Politics. Both books
err on the side of optimism, as they lay out sensible policies that could
be implemented and that could make a big difference going forward. Next
up is a much more pessimistic book, one that predicts doom of civilization
between 2070 and 2100: Brian T Watson's Headed Into the Abyss: The
Story of Our Time and the Future We'll Face. If I ever write my
book, it will land somewhere in the middle of this triangle. I wrote
a Book Roundup piece on Watson a while back:
Brian T Watson: Headed Into the Abyss: The Story of Our Time,
and the Future We'll Face (paperback, 2019, Anvilside Press):
I could imagine writing a book like this, which starts with a long
laundry list of systemic problems (Capitalism, Technology, Webworld,
Politics, Media, Education, Human Nature, The Environment, Human
Population, Transportation, Miscellaneous Forces) then winds up
showing how any (let alone all) of them are unlikely to be solved
(that chapter is called "Possible Reforms and Their Likelihood").
I'd shuffle the deck a bit -- in the 1990s, when I started thinking
along these lines, I started with resources and environment, but
back then I at least had some faith in reason to see a way through
technical obstacles, but that idea has taken a beating ever since.
So I see no more reason to be optimistic than the author, not that
I would deny that the very act of looking into the abyss implies a
certain unreasoned hope. Missing here is recognition of the unknown:
e.g., no mention of pandemic a mere year before Covid-19 hit. While
climate was most likely mentioned under Environment or Population,
it's at least as much a headline as "Webworld." Another big topic
is war: both as a cause of destruction and as a likely consequence,
in both its conventional and annihilationist modes. Bibliography is
just a list of mostly familiar books relevant to each chapter.
After I wrote that, I ordered a copy, then managed to lose it.
Last week I found it, under a pile of crap. I've just started the
chapter on capitalism, and it's not as sharp as it could be if he
had a better understanding of Marx and Keynes (and Michael Hudson
and George Brockaway, or maybe even Naomi Klein), but he's still
hitting plenty of salient points. It will be interesting to see
what he comes up with under "Human Nature." Can he, for instance,
explain the schizophrenia of the current Republican Party?
New records reviewed this week:
- AVA Trio: Ash (2021 , Tora, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
- Daniel Bingert: Ariba (2023, Moserobie): [cd]: A-
- Canadian Jazz Collective: Septology: The Black Forest Session (2022 , HGBS Blue): [cd]: B+(*)
- Kaze & Ikue Mori: Crustal Movement (2020-21 , Libra): [cd]: A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- The Birth of Bop (1944-49 , Craft, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
- D.B. Shrier: D.B. Shrier Emerges (1967 , Omnivore): [sp]: A-
- Ralph Reichert Quartet With Randy Sandke: Reflections (2002 , Nagel Heyer): [sp]: B+(**)
- The Ralph Reichert/Jerry Tilitz Quintet: Back to Back (2002 , Nagel Heyer): [sp]: B+(***)
- Miroslav Vitous: Journey's End (1982 , ECM): [sp]: A-
- Philipp Wachsmann/Paul Lytton: Some Other Season (1997 , ECM): [sp]: B+(**)
- Mal Waldron/Reggie Workman/Billy Higgins: Up Popped the Devil (1973 , Enja): [sp]: B+(**)
- Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy: Live at Dreher Paris 1981 (1981 , Hatology, 4CD): [sp]: A-
- Jack Walrath: Master of Suspense (1986 , Blue Note): [sp]: A-
- Jack Walrath: Unsafe at Any Speed (2014 , SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(***)
- Priska Walss/Gabriela Friedli: Intervista (2000-02 , Intakt): [sp]: B+(***)
- Cedar Walton: Roots (1997 , Astor Place): [sp]: B+(***)
- Weather Report: The Best of Weather Report (1973-80 , Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
- Weather Report: Live in Tokyo (1972, Columbia, 2CD): [sp]: B+(**)
- Eberhard Weber: The Colours of Chloë (1973 , ECM): [sp]: B+(*)
- Eberhard Weber: Yellow Fields (1975 , ECM): [sp]: B+(***)
- Eberhard Weber: Pendulum (1993, ECM): [sp]: B+(***)
- Bobby Wellins: The Satin Album (1996, Jazzizit): [sp]: B+(**)
- Bobby Wellins Quartet: Don't Worry 'Bout Me (1996 , Cadillac): [r]: B+(***)
- Kate Westbrook: Cuff Clout (2001 , Voiceprint): [r]: B+(**)
- Mike Westbrook Trio: Love for Sale (1985 , Hat Art): [r]: A-
- Mike Westbrook: Westbrook-Rossini (1986 , Hat Art): [sp]: B+(*)
- Mike Westbrook: Westbrook-Rossini, Zürich Live 1986 (1986 , Hat Art, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
- Mike Westbrook: Glad Day: Settings of William Blake (1997 , Enja, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
- Mike Westbrook: Chanson Irresponsable (2002 , Enja, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
- Mike Westbrook: After Abbey Road (1996-2009 , Westbrook): [r]: B-
- Gerald Wilson: The Artist Selects (1961-69 , Pacific Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
- Gerald Wilson Orchestra: New York New Sound (2002 , Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(***)
- Steve Wilson Quartet: Four for Time (1994 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
- Norma Winstone: Edge of Time (1971 , Argo): [r]: B+(***)
- Nils Wogram: Root 70 (2000 , 2nd Floor): [r]: A-
- Nils Wogram: Odd and Awkward (2000 , Enja, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
- Nils Wogram's Root 70: Getting Rooted (2003, Enja): [sp]: B+(**)
- Boban Z Trio: Transpacifik (2003, Label Bleu): [r]: B+(**)
- Monica Zetterlund: Swedish Sensation (1958, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
Grade (or other) changes:
- Steve Lacy & Mal Waldron: Live at Dreher Paris 1981, Round Midnight Vol. 1 (1981 , Hat Art, 2CD): [sp]: A-
- Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy: Live at Dreher Paris 1981, The Peak Vol. 2 (1981 , Hat Art, 2CD): [sp]: A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Mark Dresser: Times of Change (Pyroclastic) [05-05]
- Marc Ducret: Palm Sweat: Marc Ducret Plays the Music of Tim Berne (Screwgun/Out of Your Head) [03-10]
- Champian Fulton: Meet Me at Birdland (Champian) [04-07]
- Jason Kush: Finally Friday (MCG Jazz) [03-03]
- The Adam Larson Trio: With Love, From New York (Outside In Music) [04-07]
- Luiz Millan: Brazilian Match (Jazz Station) [04-21]
- Rent Romus/Heikki Koskinen: Itkuja Suite, Invocations on Lament (Edgetone) [04-04]
- Emilio Solla/Antonio Lizana: El Siempre Mar (Tiger Turn) [05-19]
- Ramana Vieira: Tudo De Mim/All of Me (self-released) [05-01]
Sunday, April 09, 2023
Speaking of Which
The Republican Party had what can only be described as a psychotic
breakdown last week. Trump's arrest and arraignment was the big story.
It could be read as a cautionary note that his contempt for law and
order will not prevail, and indeed the muted response on the streets
of New York suggests that he's on his way to being forgotten. But his
post-arraignment speech at Mar-A-Lago, and the reactions of virtually
all Republican speakers, show that the Party faithful still follow
his lead. Not since the Confederate Secession of 1860-61 have so many
showed such contempt for American and its people.
Many examples follow. Nor are they limited to the uncritical base
of Trump supporters that are increasingly dubbed MAGAs, the slogan's
former aspirations having turned into our current nightmare. We've
long known that Republicans mentally divide the country into good
and evil camps. But this week's stories show them acting on their
prejudices, using whatever power they have to punish what they see
as evil, and to pardon what we normally regard as criminal behavior
when it's done by their side. Trump is an example, but an even purer
one is Texas Governor Abbott's promise to pardon the murderer of a
Black Lives Matter protester. The decision of Tennessee Republicans
to expel two black Democrats from the state legislature was equally
There are a number of stories below on abortion politics. A Trump
judge in Texas ruled invalid the FDA approval 23 years ago of a drug
commonly used to induce abortions in early pregnancy. This is an
unprecedented ruling, from a judge who is notorious for putting
political ideology above the law -- an increasingly common practice
among Republican judges. If upheld, this would force women even in
states where abortion rights are assured to endure more invasive and
expensive procedures. There are other abortion law stories in Idaho,
Florida, and Kansas. We should be clear that these are not debates
about philosophy or religion. These are attempts by one Party to use
the law to deprive Americans of their rights, using the police and
courts to intervene in the most private of affairs. Republicans may
hate law when it holds them accountable, but they sure like to use
it to punish others.
I could have assembled a comparable gallery of cruel Republican
bills and maneuvers to harass and defame trans people, or indeed
anyone who blurs their expectations of gender identity. As Nicole
Narea and Fabiola Cineas point out below, their campaign is broad
and coordinated, deceitful and inflammatory. It seeks to take away
rights, to impose the police and courts in highly personal matters.
It attempts to legitimize hatred, and it almost inevitably will
wind up inciting violence.
This last point, of course, brings us back to Trump. From the
very beginning of his 2016 presidential campaign, starting with
his description of Mexican immigrants as "rapists and murderers,"
he has repeatedly encouraged his followers to commit violence and
mayhem. The two most memorable Jan. 6 soundbites remain his "will
be wild" and "hang Mike Pence." We are fortunate that new Trump
fanboys have gone as far as
Cesar Sayoc (who sent 16 mail bombs targeting Trump critics),
but that hasn't dampened Trump's enthusiasm. Nor is it just Trump.
Many Republicans pose with guns in their ads, some stalking liberals
like they're in a video game, and the MAGA base eats that up.
This psychosis has been coming for a long time. Verbally it's
been a fixture at Fox from the beginning. Bush's post-9/11 swagger
was built on his presumed "license to kill." Conservative journalist
wrote a book about his 2004 campaign called Voting to Kill.
Obama and Biden abetted this toxic attitude by continuing Bush's
wars, especially by claiming the scalps of Osama Bin Laden and Aymin
al-Zawahiri, but it was the Republican-fueled lust for guns that
brought the violence home. More than three times as many Americans
have been killed by guns
so far this year as were lost on 9/11, yet Republicans are so
close-minded on the subject that they expelled legislators in
Tennessee to shut them up. (We'll see how well that works.)
While gun terrorism is still infrequent enough it comes as a
shock, other aspects of Republican governance are harder to ignore.
I don't have time to list them all, but Republicans have perverted
the fundamentals of democracy, our understanding of education, the
notion that law should be just, and much more.
Top story threads:
Trump: Following last week's indictment, Trump was arrested
and arraigned in New York on Tuesday, and managed to behave himself
until he got home to Mar-A-Lago, and threatened the DA, the presiding
judge, their families, and the whole country. It's too bad we can't
just charge him with being a psychopath, and be done with it. Also
see the Jeffrey St Clair entry below, especially the statistics on
misdemeanor prosecutions in New York.
Ryan Cooper: [03-27]
Donald Trump Deserves to Be Indicted: "But not just for the Stormy
Daniels affair; the most corrupt president in American history has
gotten away with far too much." Written pre-indictment, but good to
start off with a reminder why this matters.
David Dayen: [04-06]
Our Two-Tiered Justice System and the Trump Indictment: "Corporate
crime enforcement in America has been pathetic for decades. One prosecution
of a guy screaming to be prosecuted doesn't change that."
Christopher Fettweis: [04-03]
Ripping up Trump's 'battle plan' of attack on Mexico's cartels:
"Chasing drug gangs and an endless rotation of kingpins into the cities
and mountains -- do we really want another Afghanistan?" No. We shouldn't
even want a repeat of the
Pancho Villa Expedition, when US forces under Gen. Pershing
invaded Mexico in March 1916 and spent 11 months trampling around
northern Mexico, failing to catch a single "bandit." Of course, a
repeat would be a much bigger mistake now: the area is much more
populated now, everyone is much better armed, and the risk to
civilian targets is much greater. The article gives many reasons
why this wouldn't work, without even getting into the basic fact
that American businesses have massive investments in Mexico that
would suddenly become vulnerable, to disruption or worse.
Richard Fausset/Danny Hakim: [04-08]
Georgia Looms Next After Trump's Indictment in New York.
Shirin Ghaffary: [04-05]
Trump is no longer the social media king: "Why the former president's
arrest was a whimper, not a roar, on Twitter, a platform designed for
these moments." This may have less to do with refugee Trump than with
Twitter itself, which Chip Goines tells us, "Twitter as a breaking news
platform for news junkies like me is terribly broken at this point."
Melissa Gira Grant: [04-04]
The Weird Religious Fervor of the Trump Faithful:
Maggie Haberman/Jonathan Swan: [04-08]
Trump and His Lawyers: A Restless Search for Another Roy Cohn:
The picture they released of Trump inside the court room mostly
exposes how peculiar he is as a defendant. He sits in the middle
of no less than four lawyers. Normally one would suffice, or two
for the actual trial, but it's like he wants to impress upon the
prosecution that he's got deeper pockets than they have. But the
key quote here comes from William Barr, who "shook his head at
the sight of the defense table on Tuesday," adding "Lawyers
inevitably are sorry for taking on assignments with him."
Martin Pengelly: [04-09]
Trump's indictment and the return of his biggest concern: 'the
women'. Pengelly also co-wrote, with Maya Yang: [04-06]
New York judge in Trump arraignment reportedly receives 'dozens' of
James Poniewozik: [04-05]
For Once, Donald Trump Did Not Enjoy the Show: "The ex-president's
indictment put him in the rare position of being forced onto a public
stage not of his own choosing." Last line: "As a TV draw, Donald Trump
holding court is no competition for Donald Trump sitting in one."
Nia Prater/Chas Danner: [04-05]
Trump Attacks Judge and His Family: "His Mar-a-Lago speech was
relatively short but packed with grievance." Various "live updates"
pieces, including important links to: Ankush Khardori: [04-04]
Prosecuted: What to make of the criminal case against Donald Trump;
and Ben Jacobs: [04-04]
Trump's Indictment Has Become His Platform. The former leads me to
think that if/when the case is tried, Trump will be convicted (although
a hung jury is not inconceivable), but that odds are not good that a
conviction won't be overturned on appeal (there are technical grounds
for that, but also the court system is littered with Trump appointees,
who scarcely need grounds for anything they do).
Joan Walsh: [04-06]
There Was No Trump Violence This Week. But What's Coming? To
answer, she interviews Jeff Sharlet, author of The Undertow:
Scenes From a Slow Civil War. Cites a review of the book, by
Adam Fleming Petty: [03-21]
Exploring the crowds that gather for Trump -- and dream of civil
Amy B Wang: [04-06]
Trump ally Jordan issues subpoena to former N.Y. prosecutor:
That would be Mark Pomerantz, who resigned after accusing Manhattan
DA Alvin Bragg of sandbagging the case against Trump, and wrote a
book, People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account. Jordan has
been threatening to subpoena Bragg -- a move that would be blatantly
illegal, but Pomerantz would seem to be fair game. Jordan will no
doubt argue that the DA's office was on a "witch hunt" to get Trump,
while Pomerantz will counter that Trump was so obviously guilty he
should have been charged earlier, and possibly for more. One note
here that I somehow missed is that Trump gave Jordan a Presidential
Medal of Freedom in January 21 after Jordan refused a subpoena to
testify before the Jan. 6 Committee. Of course, those medals were
permanently tarnished back when Bush gave them to the three stooges
of the Iraq War (Tommy Franks, George Tenet, and Paul Bremer). Trump
has found even less worthy people to give the medal to. (List
here, including conservative totems Antonin Scalia, Rush Limbaugh,
and Arthur Laffer, as well as megadonor Miriam Adelson and Truth Social
CEO Devin Nunes; nonetheless, Trump only handed out a below-average 24
medals, 14 of which were to athletes/sports figures. Obama was most
generous, with 117 medals over 8 years. Biden has awarded 17 so far,
0.63 per month, compared to 0.50 for Trump, 1.22 for Obama, 0.86 for
Bush, 0.93 for Clinton, 0.81 for GWH Bush, 0.93 for Reagan, 0.71 for
Carter. The medals started with Kennedy in 1963. Two people turned
the medal down, both from Trump: Bill Belichick and Dolly Parton.)
Frank Luntz: [04-09]
How to Make Trump Go Away: The GOP's language guru runs his focus
groups and searches for a narrow path, concluding: "Republicans want
just about everything Mr. Trump did, without everything Mr. Trump is
or says." No doubt Luntz is one smart cookie, but I think he's got
that exactly wrong. They don't know or care what he did, but they
want his attitude and his mouth, his style. They want to piss off
their nominal enemies, and nobody does that better. Luntz explains:
"In 2016, the campaign was about what he could do for you. Today,
it's about what is being done to him. If he becomes increasingly
unhinged, or if his opponents focus on his tweets, his outbursts
and his destructive personality, a sizable number of Republicans
could choose someone else, as long as they prioritize core, time-tested
priorities like lower taxes, less regulation, and less Washington."
But those "core priorities" are killing us. Trump, almost uniquely,
gives his followers someone else to blame for Republican failures.
And Other Republicans: Note that there was so much here
that I wound up having to move several clusters of links into their
Zack Beauchamp: [04-05]
The last 48 hours revealed the GOP's intractable 2024 dilemma:
"Trump and pro-lifers own the Republican Party."
Paul Krugman: [04-07]
The Weird New War on 'Woke' Money: Responds to DeSantis's rant
on the Fed possibly issuing a "digital dollar." It hasn't happened,
and he hasn't convinced me that it should (or indeed that it makes
much sense), except that it would attract users away from crypto,
leaving the latter even more the haven of "wiseguys to evade taxes,
launder money, buy and sell illegal drugs, and engage in extortion."
But at least nothing woke. Dean Baker adds: [04-08]
Krugman Reminds Us That Protectionism for Bankers Is a Very Powerful
Eduardo Medina: [04-08]
Texas Governor Says He Plans to Pardon Man Convicted of Killing
Protester: "Gov. Greg Abbott said he would forgo a prison sentence
for Daniel S. Perry, who was convicted on Friday in the murder of Garrett
Foster at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in 2020." As far as I'm
concerned, this makes Abbott as guilty as Perry.
Timothy Noah: [04-07]
Ron DeSantis's Deranged Rant About the Fed Ought to Doom His Campaign.
Noah gives examples of past gaffes, but they're inapplicable, because
they involved saying things that were out of bounds, all the worse if
they were partly true. But simply saying stupid shit only matters if
you're trying to reach people who know better. When you're running in
a Republican primary, that's not your audience.
Prem Thakker: [03-07]
Even Marjorie Taylor Greene Hates the Anti-Muslim Crank Whom Trump
Wants to Hire: Meet Laura Loomer.
Claire Gibson/Praveena Somasundaram/Maria Luisa Paúl/Andrea
Tennessee House expels two Democrats in historic act of partisan
retaliation. Expelled were Justin Jones (D-Nashville, by a vote
of 72-25), and Justin Pearson (D-Memphis, 69-26). They also voted
on expelling Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville), a former teacher who lost
a student to gun violence (and who also happens to be white), fell
one vote shy of the two-thirds required (65-30).
- Li Zhou: [04-06]
The Tennessee legislature's expulsion of two Black Democrats is
unprecedented and undemocratic. "The treatment of two Black
lawmakers echoes past Republican efforts to explicitly curb Black
political power via bills that would gut local policies of Democrat-led
cities like Nashville and Memphis." It also echoes the Jim Crow era,
and begs for a return of Reconstruction.
Matthew Brown: [04-08]
Problematic things Tenn. Republicans have done without getting expelled.
Jennifer Rubin: [04-07]
Tennessee shows that guns might be the next disaster for the GOP.
Greg Sargent: [04-07]
The 'Tennessee 3' saga highlights the GOP retreat into Fortress
Zack Beauchamp: [04-07]
A study confirms it: Tennessee's democracy really is as bad as the
expulsions made you think. I'm skeptical of these studies, but
looking at the maps, the bottom of the barrel in 2000 was South
Carolina and Alabama; in 2019 it's Tennessee, North Carolina,
Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Georgia (with no noticeable
improvement in South Carolina or Alabama).
Abortion: I started out collecting these under the stupid
Republican stories section, but a couple stories are big enough to
merit their own section. Still, no mistaking that this is what you
get when you elect Republicans.
A couple elections: The highly partisan state supreme court
election in Wisconsin was won handily by a liberal Democrat, although
the state legislature is so severely gerrymandered that they could
conceivably impeach the winner out of spite (just as in Tennessee,
they're expelling duly elected representatives they dislike). And in
the nonpartisan Chicago mayor election, the more progressive candidate
edged out a win against a guy the New York Times insists on calling
"the moderate": his most conspicuous positions are in favor of
undermining the public school system with charter schools, and of
blind, reflexive support of the Chicago police union -- how do
those positions, which align more closely with Republicans (think
Nancy DeVos and Bernie Kerik), qualify as "moderate"?
Tareq S Hajjaj: [04-07]
Palestinians fear war is near as Israel attacks Gaza during Ramadan
yet again. "The escalation has so far resembled the prelude to
the war in 2021, when Israeli forces stormed Al-Aqsa and detained
over 200 people on the 25th night of Ramadan. At the time, Palestinian
factions in Gaza responded to the provocation by firing rockets. This,
in turn, led to a 10-day war on Gaza, which left 200 Palestinians dead
and hundreds of families homeless." I was tempted to leave out the
second line, because that's always the excuse. While rocket attacks
always result in a disproportionate Israeli response, it's not like
Palestinians have any other options to register their horror.
John Hudson/Louisa Loveluck: [04-08]
Israeli spy chiefs led secret revolt against Netanyahu reforms, leaked
Jake Johnson: [04-07]
Fears of 'Serious Escalation' Grow as Israel Bombs Lebanon and
James North: [04-07]
The 'NY Times' deliberately distorts the news, to blame Palestinians
for the Al-Aqsa mosque crisis. They're always running some version
of this article, because the "paper of record" never gets the story
Yumna Patel: [04-08]
Ben-Gvir's 'private militia' moves forward, and Palestinians are in the
line of fire.
Richard Silverstein: [04-07]
Israeli Assault on Al Aqsa Is State Terrorism.
Kelly Stancil: [04-06]
Global Outcry as Israeli Forces Attack Al-Aqsa Worshippers for Second
Elsewhere around the world:
Zack Beauchamp: [04-08]
Meet the MAGA movement's new favorite autocrat: El Salvador's
president, Nayib Bukele, whose draconian "anti-gang" measures have
resulted in the world's highest incarceration rates (edging out
you-know-who). Before this, the only thing I knew about him was
his advocacy of BitCoin, which he has made legal tender.
Ryan Grim: [04-07]
To help end the Yemen war, all China had to do was be reasonable:
"With Joe Biden nowhere to be found, China's diplomacy set the stage
for Saudi concessions and cease-fire talks." But what about the arms
sales the US will be missing out on?
Sam Bell: [03-30]
Democrats Slashed Medicaid and Food Assistance Because We Didn't Fight:
So why is this our fault? The measures in question were smartly
added to the CARES pandemic relief bill, which passed because Trump and
the Republicans were panicking over the 2020 stock market collapse, and
they needed Democratic support because Democrats controlled the House.
But even though the policies were generally popular, Democrats didn't
have sufficient majorities to keep them going. It may have been a
tactical mistake to have conceded them instead of alternatives, but
it's unlikely a demonstration or letter-writing campaign would have
made any difference.
Paul Buhle: [03-30]
Staughton Lynd: The Perils of Sainthood. Activist-scholar (1929-2022),
this focuses on his book My Country Is the World: Staughton Lynd's
Writing, Speeches and Statements Against the Vietnam War.
Matthew Cappucci: [04-07]
Earth has second-warmest March even before arrival of planet-heating
El Niño: "It was the 529th consecutive month to feature temperatures
above the 20th-century average." More climate change:
Kyle Cheney/Josh Gerstein: [04-07]
Appeals court ruling puts hundreds of Jan. 6 felony cases in limbo.
The authors previously wrote about a similar case: [03-07]
Judge tosses obstruction charge against Jan. 6 defendant. By the way,
Rachel Weiner reads this case somewhat differently: [04-07]
Jan. 6 rioters can be prosecuted for obstructing Congress, court
Kate Conger/Ryan Mac: [04-07]
Twitter Takes Aim at Posts That Link to Its Rival Substack.
I know some people who mostly use Twitter to post links to their
articles on Substack. In fact, I mostly use it to notify readers
of new pieces on my blog. Matt Taibbi posts 5-10 tweets linking
to each and every one of his Substack pieces. He now says he will
be leaving Twitter. More on Twitter:
Hannah Crosby: [04-08]
How Many More Years of Living Dangerously: "The National Flood
Insurance Program can't keep pace with the challenges posed by climate
change and insuring oceanfront homes in Scituate, Massachusetts."
Timothy Egan: [04-03]
What we can learn from the Midwestern war against the Klan 100 years
ago. It's only been 100 years, but we're unlikely ever again to
witness 25,000 hooded klansmen marching through Washington, DC. On
the other hand, that anyone still considers this history relevant to
now is disturbing. It may still be interesting that what destroyed
the 1920s Klan wasn't repression, or that racism went out of fashion,
but internal power struggles: to the end, assholes be assholes.
Amanda Holpuch: [04-07]
New Mexico Police Fatally Shoot Man After Responding to Wrong
House. The person they killed was armed, not that he had
a chance to defend himself. So tell me again how the Second
Amendment works? Note that they were able to fill up a whole
sidebar under "New Mexico Gun Violence."
Heather Souvaine Horn: [03-31]
Fight Climate Change by Doing Less: "Resist the misconception that
sustainable living means more work." Spend less. Work less. Why make
this any more complicated than it has to be?
Sarah Jones: [04-08]
Children Are Not Property: "The idea that underlies the right-wing
campaign for "parents rights." It's hard for me to read this without
trembling, as it reminds me of psychic trauma from my own childhood
that still haunt me. I wouldn't even concede that "only the unborn
are spared the right's cruelty." (Remember the title of Adam Serwer's
book: The Cruelty Is the Point.) I'd add that the old term for
"property in people" is slavery.
Joshua Kaplan/Justin Elliott/Alex Mierjeski: [04-06]
Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire: This is a major report on
how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been the beneficiary
of numerous gifts, especially from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow.
You know, for many years conservatives complained that seemingly
solid Republicans would be nominated to the Supreme Court, then
somehow transform into starry-eyed liberals. Eventually, they came
up with a way to keep Justices true: they pay them, under the table
or off on the side, especially by doling lucrative jobs out to their
families. No one has raked in more cash this way than Ginni Thomas.
And here we find her husband skating around the world in private
planes and superyachts.
Some further comments:
Emma Brown/Shawn Boburg: [04-06]
Clarence Thomas has reported receiving only two gifts since 2004:
a bronze bust of Frederick Douglass (from Crow, valued at $6,484),
and a glass medallion and brass plaque from Yale (valued at $530).
Not reported was the financing of Ginni Thomas's political groups,
including $500,000 for Liberty Central (2009), and $600,000 for
Jonathan Chait: [04-06]
Clarence Thomas and the Ethical Disaster of the Supreme Court:
"Undisclosed gifts from billionaires won't even embarrass the right."
Aaron Gregg/Rachel Lerman: [04-06]
Who is Harlan Crow, the GOP megadonor who vacations with Justice
Thomas? Not a lot of surprises here. To the question, "where
did he make his money?" the answer starts: "His father . . ."
Glenn Kessler: [04-07]
Parsing Clarence Thomas's statements on the gifts he didn't
Daniel Kreps: [04-08]
Clarence Thomas' Billionaire Buddy Has a Vast Collection of Hitler
Paintings, Nazi Memorabilia.
Dahlia Lithwick/Mark Joseph Stern: [04-06]
Clarence Thomas Broke the Law and It Isn't Even Close.
Mike Masnick: [04-07]
Mehdi Hasan Dismantles the Entire Foundation of the Twitter Files as
Matt Taibbi Stumbles to Defend It. Includes video of a 30-minute
interview, which I haven't watched yet. Given that Taibbi's work on
the Twitter dump is mostly behind his paywall, and that the hype he's
been giving it on Twitter rarely makes much sense, I haven't made any
real effort to follow the story. But the article here seems to demolish
if not everything at least the hype about its importance. Hasan, by the
way, has a new book out, called Win Every Argument: The Art of
debating, Persuading, and Public Speaking. Trashing Taibbi should
help promote that book.
Elie Mystal: [03-22]
Corporate America Is No Longer Pretending to Care About Diversity:
Following the outcry over the murder of George Floyd, many companies
resolved to hire DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) officers. A new
study shows that "the attrition for DEI officers was 33 percent at
the end of 2022, compared with 21 percent for non-DEI roles."
Nicole Narea/Fabiola Cineas: [04-06]
The GOP's coordinated national campaign against trans rights,
explained: The key word here is "coordinated." This is not an
issue I'm inclined to get involved in, but Republicans have taken
such a vile stand that we're being forced to respond. It wouldn't
be hard to come up with ten more examples:
Nicole Narea/Ian Millhiser/Andrew Prokop: [04-06]
The multibillion-dollar defamation lawsuits against Fox News,
explained. As a general rule, I hate defamation lawsuits,
which tend to be attacks on free speech, brought on by rich
blowhards who want to stifle criticism. For example, when Trump
first ran for president, one of his greatest hopes was to change
the law so he could sue more people who prickled his thin skin.
This one is a little different, inasmuch as it is helping to
expose the inner workings of Fox and its right-wing propaganda
machine. Whether Dominion deserves billions can be debated, but
anything that helps reveal Fox for what they really are should
be applauded. Also:
Richard Sandomir: [04-08]
Mel King, Whose Boston Mayoral Bid Eased Racial Tensions, Dies at
94. A legend a bit before my time in Boston, so I wanted to
note him but didn't have much to say. Title point is certainly
true, at least compared to his opponent (Raymond Flynn). Among
my friends, he is regarded as a pathbreaking progressive. As Linda
Gordon put it: "How I wish Mel King was with us now. I'm not sure
I know of another activist/politician I have more respected and
Nicholas Slayton: [04-07]
'How to Blow Up a Pipeline' and the Case for Radical, Direct Action
on Climate: "A new film considers what to do when those in power
fail to take the problem seriously." The film is about "a diverse
group of activists banding together to blow up an oil pipeline in
West Texas." Look, I don't approve, and I emphatically reject that
people who would do such a thing are coming at the problem from the
left, but it's only a matter of time until things like this happen,
with some frequency. In Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry for
the Future, which is set in the future but not very damn far,
extraordinary things we call "ecoterrorism" happen frequently --
e.g., hypersonic missiles blowing up tankers -- and are shown to
contribute significantly to the powers around the world finally
addressing the problem. To set such violence in motion, you need
three factors converging: (1) the perception that climate change
is destroying our way of life; (2) the common, routine resort to
violence as a way of coping with problems; and (3) the demonstrated
failure of normal politics to address the problem. If I had to put
a bet on how far each of these has progressed, it would be somewhere
between 30% and 60%. The Ukraine War, to pick one example, has boosted
each of these factors. (The NordStream pipeline could conceivably have
been an ecoterrorist operation, except that there was little reason:
it was already shut down, and it was a difficult target, when many
other targets would be much easier -- like the one in the movie.)
Also on this:
Kate Aronoff: [04-05]
Is Environmental Radicalism Inevitable? "It would be ludicrous,
Malm acknowledge, to expect saboteurs to systematically dismantle
the fossil fuel economy one homemade incendiary at a time. In this
and other work, he's emphasized that only states can do that. Both
he and the film's protagonists, accordingly, articulate eco-terrorism
as a kind of DIY market signal meant to force states' hand into doing
something they otherwise wouldn't."
Peter C Baker: [04-05]
Will We Call Them Terrorists? A review of How to Blow Up a
Pipeline. "We do not know how the future will see us."
Jeffrey St Clair: [04-07]
Roaming Charges: Broken Windows Theory of Political Crime:
"People griping about the trivial nature of the charges against
Trump seem to have forgotten that the aggressive enforcement of
trivial offenses has been the hallmark of American policing for
40 years, put into vicious deployment by Trump's lawyer Rudy
Giuliani with Trump cheering him on. With hundreds of thousands
of people arrested and jailed for minor offenses like subway
fare evasion, loitering, jaywalking, or selling single cigarettes,
isn't it time we applied the Broken Windows Theory to political
crimes and hold to account the people who enforced it on others?"
St Clair quotes Stephen Miller asking "What is Donald Trump's
crime?" Miller's answer is: "His crime is refusing to bow or bend
to the corrupt and rotten foreign policy establishment that is used
to always getting their way in this country." Nice way of trying
to hide a lie (Trump's refusal to bow or bend") behind a truth that
is rarely acknowledged. But St Clair show how little resistance
Trump offered to the "foreign policy establishment" (he even added
a few wrinkles that were uniquely his own):
Let's review: Trump appointed the Deep State's top torturer to run
the CIA, put 1000s of troops on the ground in Syria and stole their
oil, broke Obama's drone strike record, sanctified Israel's illegal
annexation of the Golan Heights, separated children from their parents
at the border, extracted pledges of higher military spending from NATO
countries, plotted to kill Julian Assange then indicted him on espionage
charges, wanted to bomb and invade Mexico . . .
Some head-scratchers here, including most of his section on the
extramarital sex lives of various presidents (which Harding had, but
I doubt it was as described). One link struck me as strange:
Oregon will become 1st state in nation to allow children who enroll
in Medicaid at birth to stay to age 6. This is some kind of
great liberal accomplishment?
Joseph Stiglitz: [04-03]
How Models Get the Economy Wrong: "Seemingly complex and sophisticated
econometric modeling often fails to take into account common sense and
observable reality." There are a lot of smart points in this piece, but
mostly they read as refutations of dumb platitudes. Here's a line I like:
"Can it possibly be the case that the most efficient use of our limited
research resources should be directed toward making an ever-better advertising
machine (the business model underlying Facebook and Google) aimed at better
exploiting consumers through discriminatory pricing and targeted and often
misleading advertising?" Capitalism sometimes gives us things we want,
even if we didn't know that we wanted them, but in this example it's
pursuing and refining something we don't want at all, something designed
only to make our lives more miserable. Further down, after disposing
of the NAIRU model, he points out that advocates of the model wrongly
attributed inflation to excess aggregate demand, when it was "clearly
the result of a series of pandemic-induced supply-side shortages and
demand shifts." This is part of a series of articles on bad models:
Robert Kuttner: [04-07]
Is Economics Self-Correcting? "Economists are made to learn
long-discredited modeling, and then the safe way to win promotion
and tenure is to publish articles in the same genre."
Rakeen Mabud/David Dayen: [04-03]
Hidden in Plain Sight: "The distorting power of macroeconomic policy
Philip Rocco: [04-06]
Prisoners of Their Own Device: "Once computed, the 'hard numbers'
found in CBO's baseline tables conceal all the assumptions and uncertainties
involved in producing them."
Elizabeth Warren: [04-04]
How Policymakers Fight a Losing Battle With Models: "Reforms are
needed to ensure that inaccurate budgetary math doesn't take precedence
over maximizing long-term prosperity."
Matt Stoller: [04-06]
Federal Reserve Independence Is the Problem: "A weird, secretive,
and unaccountable institution organizes our society, and nobody wants
to talk about it." I remember Clinton complaining about how the "fucking
bond market" runs the country, but then he turned around and nominated
Alan Greenspan for two more terms as Fed Chair. Like Clinton, Obama and
Biden both reappointed Republican Fed Chairs, who then turned around
and screwed them.
From my Twitter feed:
Kyle Rittenhouse was a turning point where Republicans started openly
celebrating murdering people whose politics you disagree with.
Turning literal murderers into heroes because you dislike the
politics of the victims and government officials normalizing it is
a dark place.
Latest poll shows Likud would lose 12 seats from its current 32 if
election was held today. An utter disaster. Opposition parties led
by Gantz and Lapid would double their seats to 50.
meme: "The road to fascism is lined with people telling
you to stop overreacting."
Tuesday, April 04, 2023
As of 14:03 today, Twitter view count for Sunday's "Speaking of
Which" announcement is 120, and for Monday's "Music Week" is 215.
Follower count is 588.
Posted this as a comment on Facebook:
After NYC, first a few blocks from 6th St/1st Ave, then a few blocks
from Lexington/28th St, I moved deep into NJ, and couldn't find any
Indian (this was 1981-83). I tried cooking my own, and failed horribly
(but had some success with Chinese). I tried again a couple years
later, and eventually got the hang of it. Second time in NJ (not as
far out), we didn't have much trouble finding good Indian. But I did
Indian there for one of my birthday dinners. Fixed 20 dishes on a
stove that looked like it had been ripped out of a trailer. Assuming
you can buy onions and yogurt locally (and a few other common
vegetables and optionally some meat), stock a pantry a couple times a
year with spices and stuff, and you can do pretty much anything. (Also
note that you can get pretty decent frozen paratha and naan.)
Letter from Rick Mitchell on the JJA podcast he wants me to do on
we are on for 2 central wednesday. susan will send link. i will send
an email tomorrow with suggested lines of discussion. basically, we
will be talking about your particular polls, why polls in general have
endured through jazz history, how they may have impacted the careers
of individual artists (ie cecile), recent trends you've noticed (women
artists), historical trends favoring white artists, for downbeat, do
results affect coverage and what to make of with readers poll
vs. critics poll, with both polls who participates, how do the artists
themselves, both winners and those who may feel always overlooked,
relate the polls. open to suggestion. also i need to briefly introduce
both of you. i will turn it by you tomorrow night.
To quickly break this down:
- about your particular polls: Francis Davis started his poll
at the Village Voice in 2006. The Voice had a history of running critic
polls on films and pop music, so he decided to do one with 30 or so
critics centered on New York. I had nothing to do with it, other than
being invited to vote -- I wasn't in New York, but wrote a "Jazz Consumer
Guide" column for the Voice, so that qualified me. I got more involved
later, when I took over publishing the ballots, even before we both
left the Voice. When he moved to poll first to Rhapsody, then to NPR,
and in 2021 to ArtsFuse, I continued to help out, until last year when
I wound up running it.
- why polls in general have endured through jazz history:
Francis's original idea was to collect input for his year-end essay,
but he soon found that it felt like a community, and he wanted to
grow that and give the voters more visibility and respect, and I
think he's done that -- that's why the poll, regardless of how it
is branded, continues to garner support. Aside from participation
of our critics, it's hard for me to quantify how much interest or
impact our poll has. I suppose that's because we're not trying to
sell a product (like a magazine) with it.Most other polls are
basically in-house surveys that reinforce their brand and audience
(examples include JazzTimes, Cadence, and Free Jazz Collective).
DownBeat's polls are different in that they focus on musicians
rather than on albums, and also in that they invite more outside
critics (at least they invite me, and I've never written for them).
- how they may have impacted the careers of individual artists
(ie cecile): I have no idea. Most of our winners were already
well-established (Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, and Wayne Shorter
since the late 1950s; they've won 5 times, out of 17 polls). Most
younger musicians have a decade or more of placing high in the poll
before winning, the closest to an exception being Maria Schneider
in 2007 (of course, we don't know how her earlier albums would have
placed, but there weren't many of them). Steve Lehman and Kris Davis
weren't especially famous when they won, but both had a decade-plus
of superb records before they won. Same for James Brandon Lewis, who
has a new record out on Anti-, which is potentially a much bigger
deal than TAO Forms or Intakt. Same and then some for Halvorson,
who got on the bigger label (Nonesuch) and then won. I don't know
anything about Cécile McLorin Salvant, other than that she's swept
the vocals category with every record. I don't even know why does
her PR, since I never get any. I've written about the influence of
PR on polls, because I usually have a good sense of that, but her
case is an exception.
- recent trends you've noticed (women artists): Three of
our last four winners have been women, so that could be a trend,
but Maria Schneider won in the second poll (2007). I don't doubt
that there is a longer-term trend toward more major women artists
with more durable careers, stretching back into the 1990s, but
three out of the last four could just as well be random, like
three heads in four coin tosses.
- historical trends favoring white artists: Well, in
17 polls, we've only had one white male winner (Steve Lehman
in 2014, and barely at that). That's probably less than random,
but I'm not inclined to read anything into that. It should cast
doubt on the notion that whites get preferential treatment,
although if you look down to top-ten, -twenty, etc., you'd
find a more representative sampling of whites males (Charles
Lloyd, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Dave Douglas, etc.). White
women have won more (Schneider, Davis, Halvorson), but again,
no big deal.
- for downbeat, do results affect coverage and what to make of
with readers poll vs. critics poll: Not my question, but every
poll results in features on the poll winners. Beyond that it would
be surprising not to find a correlation.
- with both polls who participates: I sent out 200 invites
last year, and got 150 ballots back (plus or minus). I haven't
compared my list to DownBeat's critics list (but probably should,
if only to find a few names I should have invited). We've never
requested any demographics data, so I'd rather not guess about
that stuff -- other than the obvious points that our voters are
mostly American (probably close to 90%), and mostly male (more
like 75%). Our voter lists intersect heavily with most of the US
jazz pubs (DownBeat, JazzTimes, NYC Jazz Record, All About Jazz;
we have more than 50% of the JazzTimes voters). Broadcast (radio)
journalists make up something like 25-30% of our voters. I know
virtually nothing about that world. I've invited a few more critics
from Free Jazz Collective and El Intruso (a Spanish site that runs
its own critics poll; about half of their invitees are American).
But I got a late start last year, and wanted to maintain continuity
with previous polls.
- how do the artists themselves, both winners and those who may
feel always overlooked relate the polls: The winners are happy,
but I rarely hear anything from anyone else. I doubt there's a lot
of money riding on the results.
- i need to briefly introduce both of you
Microwave shopping notes: main limitation is 12.25" max height,
16" max depth.
- Samsung 1.1 cu ft, grilling element, ceramic inside, 1000 watt, 15.8x20.4x11.7: $225.00
- Kenmore 70929 0.9 cu ft, 900 watts, 14.5x17.8x11.02: $16.24
- Perfect Aire 1.4 cu ft, 1000 watts, 15.3x20.3x11.1: $160.18
- Perfect Aire 1.1 cu ft, 1000 watts, 15.3x20.3x11.1: $149.60
- GE Smart Wi-Fi 0.9 cu ft, 900 watts, 14.5x19x11.5: $143.00
- Black+Decker EM031MB11 1.1 cu ft 1000 watts, 15.6x20.2x12.1: $134.99
- Magic Chef 0.9 cu ft, 900 watts, 14.6x19.1x11.3: $129.12
- Black+Decker 0.9 cu ft, 900 watts, 14.8x19.1w11.5: $114.99
- Toshiba EM925A5A-SS 0.9 cu ft, 900 watts, 16.1x19.1x11.5: $114.99
- Panasonic NN-SB458S 0.9 cu ft, 900 watts, 14.8x19.1x11.5: $119.95
- Panasonic NN-SD372S 0.5 cu ft, 950 watts, 14.8x19.2x11: $182.99 [purchased 2012-05-23]
Monday, April 03, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 54 albums, 13 A-list,
Music: Current count 39927  rated (+54), 52  unrated (-4: 24 new, 28 old).
I'm continuing to focus on the unheard Penguin Guide 4-star albums
list, and having pushed my pass into the V's, I might as well continue
to the end. I ran into a bit of trouble with Martial Solal, John Surman
and Sun Ra, as the Penguin Guide recommendations didn't line up with
what I could find to stream. I dealt with this by breaking things up
or selecting playlists from available sources, which led to some extra
entries in "grade (or other) changes." In some cases, credits have
shifted (Billy Myers and Dick Mills have given way to Martial Solal;
John McLaughlin to John Surman, Mr. Sun Ra to Sun Ra), so entries get
broken up. Reissues get shuffled around all the time, so it shouldn't
be a surprise that it's impossible to keep them aligned with what's
available now or what was available at any past point.
Still, when I'm working off a check list, the temptation to check
things off is too much to resist. Nowadays, you might as well go straight
to the John Surman box (Glancing Backwards) rather than try to
find the Sequel set the Penguin Guide reviewed. The extra in the box
is the first The Trio album, which is one of the best things
British jazz ever produced. As for Sun Ra, the series of twofer CDs
Evidence produced in the 1990s are prime targets for scroungers, but
almost everything has been reissued in digital by reverting to the
original LP configurations (as is whatever new vinyl is available).
This reshuffling has produced some redundancies in my
Sun Ra listing.
I should mention that Henri Texier's Izlaz seems to be
available these days in a two-CD package with Colonel Skopje.
I reviewed the latter long ago as a B, didn't bother to listen to
it again just to compromise on the package. Sometimes I went off
on tangents: Warren Vaché's Zephyrs seem pretty much of a piece;
Petter Wettre seemed to demand further research. Vienna Art
Orchestra was particularly frustrating, with nine 4-star albums
I looked for but couldn't find, while I checked out three albums
not even on my list (some remarkable music, but too many vocals,
and too much Strauss).
I did finally add some unheard albums to my
tracking file, but haven't delved
in as yet. My desk is still a mess, and the demo queue remains far
from sorted, so the best new jazz this week won't be available until
4/28 (Dave Rempis) or 5/12 (Javier Red). Sorry about that, but it
was nice to pull out something from the queue that I really liked.
of Which yesterday. I started off by writing the introduction, as
soon as I saw Jeffrey St Clair's
Roaming Charges. I regard gun control as a losing political issue,
so I cringe whenever one of these shootings happens and the same old
song plays out. Granted, it makes Republicans look not just stupid but
pathological. It also makes Democrats look like scolds and enemies of
freedom, and that's neither good for politics nor for policy. Still,
I see no problem in talking about why people are so enamored with guns,
especially the connections between America's war culture and the way
too common desire to attack social and cultural problems with guns.
After the intro, I started gathering other stories. I wasn't surprised
that Trump dominated the news. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to sort
out what I collected, so a better structure would have helped, and there
may be some redundancy. I was surprised that I didn't pick up anything
on Trump's post-indictment fundraising, but after a quick search, I've
added some links today. (Latest haul figure is $7 million, which is
simultaneously too much and too little for a needy billionaire.)
Kind of lost in the noise is Trump's request for battle plans to
attack Mexico. Were it not so stupid, it would have deserved its own
section. Meanwhile, I collected quite a bit on casual attacks on
Syria and Iran, as well as the worsening situation in Israel. I
didn't make the comparison of Ben Gvir's new National Guard to the
SA lightly, nor my comment about the genocide countdown clock.
I'm continuing to monitor my Twitter statistics. It's pretty
regular that announcements of "Music Week" columns gather 300-350
views, but "Speaking of Which" has been steadily falling since
209 on Feb. 27, and rarely gets more than 115. I don't know what
the Facebook situation is: the Expert Witness notices go to a
group with 372 members, but I only get feedback from a dozen or
so each week, and usually just likes, often no comments at all.
I don't use my regular account for notices. I'm toying with the
idea of doing a Substack as a cheap hack to push pieces out via
email. I don't expect to make any money out of it, but it might
be nice to provide a venue independent of the rotting social
media swamp. No immediate plans.
New records reviewed this week:
- Konrad Agnas: Rite of Passage (2021 , Moserobie): [sp]: B+(***)
- Dave Askren/Jeff Benedict: Denver Sessions (2022 , Tapestry): [cd]: B+(**)
- Hailey Brinnel: Beautiful Tomorrow (2023, Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Mark Feldman/Dave Rempis/Tim Daisy: Sirocco (2022 , Aerophonic): [cd]: A- [04-28]
- MUEJL [Michel Stawicki/Uygur Vural/Elisabetta Lanfredini/João Madeira/Luiz Rocha]: By Breakfast (2022 , 4DaRecord): [cd]: B+(*)
- Javier Red's Imaginary Converter: Life & Umbrella (2023, Desafio Candente): [cd]: A- [05-12]
- Natsuki Tamura/Ittetsu Takemura: Lightning (2022, Libra): [bc]: B+(**)
- Petter Wettre: The Last Album (2021, Odin): [sp]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Steve Swell's Fire Into Music: For Jemeel: Fire From the Road (2003-04 , RogueArt, 3CD): [cd]: A-
- Kenny Baker and Warren Vaché: Ain't Misbehavin' (1996-97 , Zephyr): [sp]: A-
- Billy Byers & Martial Solal: Jazz on the Left Bank & Réunion à Paris (1956 , Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
- Dick Mills/Billy Byers/William Bouchaya/Martial Solal/Wessel Ilcken/Benoit Quersin: Jazz on the Left Bank (1956 , Epic): [sp]: B+(**)
- Jim Snidero: The Music of Joe Henderson (1998 , Double-TIme): [sp]: B+(***)
- Martial Solal: Réunion à Paris (1956 , Vogue): [sp]: B+(***)
- Martial Solal: Improvise Pour France Musique (1993-94 , JMS, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
- Martial Solal With Peter Erskine and Marc Johnson: Triangle (1995, JMS): [sp]: B+(**)
- Martian Solal Trio: Balade Du 10 Mars (1998 , Soul Note): [sp]: B+(**)
- South Frisco Jazz Band: Sage Hen Strut (1984, Stomp Off): [sp]: B+(***)
- South Frisco Jazz Band: Broken Promises (1987, Stomp Off): [sp]: B+(***)
- Bobo Stenson/Anders Jormin/Jon Christensen: Reflections (1993 , ECM): [sp]: B+(***)
- Sun Ra: St. Louis Blues: Solo Piano (1977 , Improvising Artists): [r]: B+(***)
- Sun Ra: We Travel the Spaceways/Bad & Beautiful (1956-61 , Evidence): [r]: B+(**)
- John Surman & Friends: The Dawn Sessions: Where Fortune Smiles/Live at Woodstock Town Hall (1971-75 , Sequel, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
- John Surman: Glancing Backwards: The Dawn Anthology (1970-75 , Sanctuary, 3CD): [sp]: A-
- Ralph Sutton: Ralph Sutton at Café Des Copains (1983-87 , Sackville): [sp]: A-
- Ralph Sutton: More Ralph Sutton at Café Des Copains (1988-89 [19904, Sackville): [sp]: B+(***)
- Ralph Sutton/Kenny Davern: Ralph Sutton & Kenny Davern (1980 , Chiaroscuro): [sp]: A-
- Martin Taylor: In Concert: Recorded at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild (1998 , Milestone): [sp]: B+(***)
- John Tchicai: Grandpa's Spells (1992 , Storyville): [sp]: A-
- Henri Texier Transatlantik Quartet: Izlaz (1988, Label Bleu): [r]: A-
- Jean Thielemans: Man Bites Harmonica (1957 , Riverside): [r]: B+(**)
- Toots Thielemans: Live (1974, Polydor): [sp]: B+(**)
- Radka Toneff: Winter Poem (1977, Sonet): [sp]: B+(**)
- Mel Tormé: The Duke Ellington & Count Basie Songbooks (1960-61 , Verve): [r]: B+(***)
- The Trio: Conflagration (1971, Dawn): [sp]: A-
- The Trio: Meet the Locals (1998 , Resonant): [r]: A-
- The Trio: In Color (1999 , Resonant): [sp]: B+(***)
- Gianluigi Trovesi Octet: From G to G (1992, Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)
- Warren Vaché and Brian Lemon: Play Harry Warren: An Affair to Remember (1995 , Zephyr): [sp]: B+(***)
- Warren Vaché/Tony Cole/Alan Barnes Septet: Jumpin' (1997 , Zephyr): [sp]: B+(**)
- Warren Vaché & Alan Barnes: Memories of You (1997 , Zephyr): [sp]: B+(**)
- Warren Vaché/Allan Vaché: Mrs. Vaché's Boys (1998 , Nagel Heyer): [sp]: B+(***)
- Warren Vaché: I Can't Get Started: Warren Vaché Meets Derek Watkins Again! (2000, Zephyr): [sp]: B+(***)
- Kid Thomas Valentine: Kid Thomas in California (1969 , FGHB): [sp]: A-
- Tom Varner: Martian Heartache (1996 , Soul Note): [sp]: B+(***)
- Joe Venuti and Dave McKenna: Alone at the Palace (1977, Chiaroscuro): [sp]: A-
- Vienna Art Orchestra: Suite for the Green Eighties (1981 , Hat Art): [sp]: B+(**)
- Vienna Art Orchestra: Quiet Ways: Ballads (1996 , Amadeo): [sp]: B+(**)
- Vienna Art Orchestra: All That Strauss (2000, TCB): [sp]: B+(*)
- Petter Wettre Quartet: Pig Virus (1998, Curling Legs): [sp]: B+(***)
- Petter Wettre Quintet: Household Name (2002 , Household): [sp]: B+(**)
- Petter Wettre/Dave Liebman: Tour De Force (2000 , Household): [sp]: B+(**)
Grade (or other) changes:
- Stu Martin/John Surman: Live at Woodstock Town Hall (1975 , Pye): [sp]: B+(***)
- John McLaughlin/Dave Holland/John Surman/Stu Martin/Karl Berger: Where Fortune Smiles (1971, Dawn): [sp]: [was: B+] B+(***)
- Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra: We Travel the Space Ways (1956-60 , El Saturn): [r]: B+(*)
- Mr. Sun Ra and His Arkestra: Bad and Beautiful (1961 , El Saturn): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Chet Baker: Blue Room: The 1979 Vara Studio Sessions in Holland (Jazz Detective, 2CD) [04-28]
- Tom Collier: Boomer Vibes Volume 1 (Summit) [03-10]
- Das Kondensat: Andere Planeten (WhyPlayJazz) [04-07]
Sunday, April 02, 2023
Speaking of Which
I opened this file by linking to Jeffrey St Clair's latest "Roaming
Charges" piece (way down below), because any time he writes one of his
scattershot columns, I feel duty-bound to link to it. Not that we see eye-to-eye
on everything. I could certainly do without the gratuitous sniping at
Bernie Sanders (even if he occasionally has a point). But he's never
tried to critique both parties from some imaginary point in the middle,
so when he does hold Democrats to account, he never tries to blur the
distinction by making Republicans seem a bit less evil.
[PS: Although further down he
berates Biden as "old, tired, powerless, out of ideas and lacking any
genuine outrage," then turns around and says, "One thing you have to
admire about Trump is that he didn't give up pursuing his agenda, no
matter how debased it was . . . people liked that he was a fighter."
That strikes me as unfair to Biden, who evinces far more outrage than
I think is politically savvy, and inaccurate on Trump, who never had
an agenda to fight for, aside from symbolic gestures like the wall,
and whose ineffectiveness had more than a little to do with his lack
of compassion or conviction. Anyone who values Trump as a fighter
has a fleeting grasp of reality.]
I may be more
inclined to pull my punches for the sake of partisan solidarity, but
I have to respect his principles, not least because they come with
important insights. This week's column starts with one so important
it needs to go here, on top, before you get distracted with what's
likely to be a veritable tsunami of political bullshit. (I'm writing
this on Friday, before collecting the rest, so it'll be easy to
check my prediction.) He opens as follows (my bold):
The US is not going to solve its gun violence epidemic until it
addresses its war violence epidemic. There's a reason the AK-15
has become the weapon of choice for post-Gulf War shooters. Blame guns
if you must, but start with the war culture that has indoctrinated so
many people to crave them, not, I suspect for self-protection, but for
the projection of power in a society where the individual is left with
For three decades, we have saturated our society with
government-sponsored violence, where every type of killing is
officially sanctioned, including that of children. We've committed
infanticide with impunity from Kandahar to Belgrade. The sniper and
the drone have become cultural icons, grotesque symbols of the
Predictably, the chickens that have come home to roost haven't only
been the relatives of the victims, but also the children of
perpetrators, nurtured on fear, bloodshed and high-capacity
ammo. They've been reared to see people in uniform -- from Mosul to
Memphis -- kill with impunity. The lessons seem to have taken
I've said the first sentence before, probably many times. The rest
just drives home the point, not that you couldn't add volumes more.
I have no fondness for guns, and wouldn't mind if they were totally
banned. (I don't mind people who hunt, as many of my recent ancestors
did, but even there I could imagine a program where people rent hunting
guns when they obtain their in-season licenses. Among other things, it
would match guns to game. I could also see letting people target shoot,
but renting the guns there, too. Again, you'd get a better match. And,
really, it wouldn't be any more onerous than having to rent shoes at
the bowling alley -- I assume they still do that, as it's been a while.)
But politically that's not going to happen, at least any time soon, at
least as long as many people feel like they need to own guns, and are
willing to live with the inevitable costs. What anti-gun people need
to do is to shift some mind, to get people to realize that they don't
need (and shouldn't want) guns.
A big part of the reason for my indifference or resignation to the
dearth of gun control is that I really don't like the instinct that
drives so many people to ban anything they don't like. That was the
driving ideology behind prohibition, including the war on drugs, and
creates bad side-effects as well as not working very well. I suppose
there are limits to my preference for never banning anything: we still
have bans on fully-automatic machine guns and artillery, and it makes
sense to keep tight regulation on toxic chemicals and explosives. And
while I'd cut way back on criminal penalties for drugs, I'd like to
see enough regulation to keep them from being commercialized.
I have a somewhat similar position on immigration. I think most
immigration is driven not by wonderful economic opportunities in
America, but by the spread of violence that is largely backed or
motivated by America's global projection of power, and by the global
financial system that continuously works to extract profit from the
rest of the world (often protected by American arms). If you want to
limit immigration, the most effective thing would be to reduce the
fear and hunger elsewhere that drives people here. (Needless to say,
you can substitute Europe for America in the preceding sentences and
still make perfect sense. And Europe and America are linked in that
way, such that the political/economic powers in each no longer
discriminate in favor of own interests.) So my argument to anyone
who wants to restrict immigration is to start by reforming the
foreign policies that drive people to come here. Oh, and by the
way, also climate policies, given that changing climate is likely
to be the biggest driver of migration in coming decades.
Of course, I know people (my wife, for one) who want no limits on
immigration, as they believe that every person should have the right
to live wherever they see fit. I don't have a strong argument against
that position, but I can see a sensible one. Borders act as baffles,
which aren't impermeable but do so some extent allow nations to work
on their own problems independently of other nations and pressures.
While America may look like some kind of paradise to outsiders, it
isn't. We have a lot of work to do to make it more livable and vital
for the people who already live here, and adding more people makes
Sure, maybe not a lot: I accept that the long-term benefits
of adding immigrants are real, that the short-term costs aren't as bad
as is commonly assumed (or wouldn't be if we didn't allow them to be
exploited so badly), and that the idea that America's culture will be
undermined by unassimilable aliens is a fantasy. On the other hand,
we're hard pressed now to build the political will to make the changes
we so sorely need, and there's little reason to think that higher
immigration levels might help. Note that the biggest turn to the left
in American history was during the 1930s, when immigration was close
to nil. On the other hand, recall that 5 (of 16) Republican presidential
candidates in 2016 had at least one foreign-born parent.
What I do see as priorities on immigration are that people who have
been here for quite some time need to be accepted and documented, and
not be treated as "illegals"; also that migrants who do come to America
need to be treated humanely and efficiently, not just for their own
sakes but because the way we've been treating them just makes us all
that much more barbaric.
Top story threads:
Trump: The former president pulled away from the pack this
week, by getting indicted, by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, in a case
that involves the famous "hush money" payment to porn star Stormy
Daniels, or perhaps more technically the hidden audit trail of the
payment, but with the indictment (still sealed) of 30 items, it
seems likely that the charges will go further into an extensive
pattern of corrupt business practices.
You might start by watching
Jimmy Kimmel, because, as
he insists, Trump's indictment is "historic and it's funny." He only
had an hour or two to prepare (poor Seth Myers missed it completely),
but he makes some good points. Also, once again, I love it that
virtually his whole audience is excited by the news. I'm so used to
being in a fringe minority that I find it very heartening to see a
crowd of normal people clearly aware of just how horrible Trump has
been (and still is).
Nicole Narea/Ian Millhiser: [03-31]
Your biggest questions about Trump's indictment, answered: "Here's
what happens next."
Zack Beauchamp: [03-31]
The best precedent for Trump's indictment is (gulp) Israel: Sure,
no nation has more experience with indicting its political leaders,
but Trump hasn't pushed his situation nearly as far as Netanyahu has.
To make the two analogous, Trump would have to win in 2024, and make
every day January 6 all over again.
Igor Derysh: [03-31]
Trump reportedly "caught off guard" by 34-count indictment -- melts
down all night on Truith Social. My instinct is to be agnostic
about indicting Trump (or anyone else, at least anyone I've heard
of), not just because "innocent until proven guilty," and not just
because I never care much for the details, but also because I don't
have much faith that justice works in America. If Trump acted like
a normal defendant, which is to say hid behind lawyers who exercised
some care not to inflame the situation, that would probably be the
end of my interest. After all, why get heavily invested in something
(like his impeachments) that isn't likely to pan out. On the other
hand, when he squirms like a stuck pig, that's something I can enjoy.
Not that I usually go in for Schadenfreude, but regardless of whether
he's ultimately a convicted felon, he's clearly a malign political
force, and quite simply a bad person. Perhaps the squirming is just
the mark of a thin-skinned, narcissistic egomaniac, but it feels
like at least a taste of justice.
By the way, Salon is having a lot of fun consulting various
"experts" on whatever it is they know about the Trump indictment.
Examples as of [04-02]:
Experts: Bragg has "very strong case";
Expert: Indictment won't help Trump;
Expert: Charges show Trump not a "king";
Experts rip DeSantis' extradition threat;
Haberman: Ex-Trumpers "quietly cheering";
Legal experts: Trump will fight back;
Right freaks out over Trump indictment.
Also, a while back [02-24]
"Threatening a prosecutor is a crime": Experts say Trump's Truth
Social post could badly backfire.
Chris Hedges: [03-31]
Yes, Donald Trump has committed many crimes -- but that's not why he
faces prosecution: "Like Richard Nixon, Trump is being punished
for his sins against the dominant order, not his most serious ones."
Mostly true: if I had to rank his crimes, I'd start elsewhere, but
suppressing the Storm Daniels story a week before the 2016 election
may have been one that was necessary to secure his win, making the
later crimes possible. There's no doubt that the story was juicy
enough the media would have gone crazy with it, possibly drowning
out the last round of Clinton email hoopla. Sure, most of his
supporters would have laughed it off, but he won the electoral
college by a very slim margin.
The part that's untrue is that he
is being tried for upsetting "the dominant order." That's an odd,
imprecise term, but most of the rich and powerful were perfectly
happy with all the perks and favors Trump cut them. Even when they
found him embarrassing, they were more worried that he'd get voted
out and the gravy train would stop (although, let's be real, most
of them know how to extract favors from Democrats as well). While
Trump occasionally said things that were off base, he did so little
on his own that he never was much of a threat. In particular, his
much bruited antiwar sentiments led to ever larger defense budgets
and an acceleration of random drone attacks, while he tore up many
more treaties than he negotiated. And while it's true that most
Democrats came to really despise him, the few cases they brought --
including two politically-doomed impeachments -- were constructed
narrowly and solidly based. We haven't seen the Manhattan DA case
yet, but given how reluctant Alvin Bragg was to charge Trump, he
probably has a solid case.
Since Hedges mentioned Nixon, let's talk about him for a minute.
Maybe I was just at an impressionable age when he became president,
but I've always thought he was the most evil politician in American
history. He's the only one I've truly hated, and I still blame much
of what I deplore most in Reagan, Bush, and even Trump on him. When
I was trying to figure out what I thought about capital punishment,
he was my test case: if we can't execute Nixon, where's the justice
in executing anyone else? It really just reduces to a power dynamic:
states kill the people too powerless to stop them, and let the rest
go free. I remember thinking about death, and concluding that as
long as Nixon goes first, I'm willing to deal with it. Yet basically
what happened was that after Nixon resigned, and after Ford pardoned
him, he became harmless. He didn't become a hermit. He wrote his
self-serving books, and enjoyed the rest of his life in relative
comfort, but he never really bothered us after that. So, sure, it
wasn't justice that Nixon never had to pay for his crimes. But it
was effective, just to keep him away from the levers of power that
made his crimes so calamitous.
Now maybe the same thing could have happened with Trump, but
here he is, running for president again, threatening revenge on
everyone who slighted him over the years, inspiring and exhorting
his coterie of followers to build new crimes on top of his. Never
mind remorse, he is utterly without shame or conscience. He still
describes himself as "the most innocent man in American history."
It is quite possible that had he meekly retired into his mansion,
none of the charges -- and now that the ice is broken, I have
little doubt that there will be more -- would have been brought.
You can object that makes them political, but Trump is the one
who made them political: he is the one who made them urgent and
necessary. Had he simply retired, he would have been as harmless
as Nixon. But by fighting on, several prosecutors decided they
had to make clear to the public what kind of man (what kind of
criminal) he really is.
Hedges' other implication: that one shouldn't be prosecuted
for a lesser crime once one has committed a greater one, is too
ridiculous to address. I rather doubt that's even the rule in
divinity school, where Hedges studied, but I'm dead certain
that no lawyer in America would try to use that as a defense.
Ben Jacobs: [03-31]
Trump's indictment has united the Republican Party in apocalyptic
rage. Well, they see every rage as apocalyptic.
Samaa Khullar: [03-31]
Manhattan DA accuses GOP of "unlawful political interference" in Trump
case: If you want to talk about "unprecedented," tell me the last
time a committee of Congress tried to insert itself into a state or
local prosecution, demanding to expose and interrogate a case before
it has been tried? I like the British term for this sort of thing:
"attempting to pervert the course of justice." Khullar also wrote: [03-31]
Fox News stokes fears of political "violence" over Trump indictment.
Tori Otten: [03-31]
Republicans' Only Defense Against the Trump Indictment: George Soros:
Mostly in the context of the "Soros-backed Manhattan District Attorney."
I shouldn't have to explain the anti-semitic tropes of singling Soros
out everywhere. And it's not like left-leaning pundits are going around
deriding Republicans as "Koch-backed" or "Adelson-backed" (even though
both of those guys, at least before the latter died, held conventions
attended by dozens of Republicans hoping to kiss the ring). [OK, full
disclosure, back when he was a Congressman, I did refer to "Mike Pompeo
(R-Koch)," but that connection was much more direct than Soros ever gets
to anyone, and I was contrasting Pompeo to "Todd Tiahrt (R-Boeing)."]
Andre Pagliarini: [04-01]
What the Right-Wing Freakout Over Trump's "Banana Republic" Indictment
Is Really About. Meanwhile, Jair Bolsonaro return to Brazil, and
his own possible prosecution for a wide range of crimes.
Ramesh Ponnoru: [04-02]
Trump's indictment will warp our politics for years to come:
I only mention this piece only because it strikes me that Trump's
indictment may well be viewed as belonging to the "warp for years
to come" that started with Republican attempts to use civil and
criminal suits against Clinton in the 1990s. If this seems to be
harsher on Trump, it's because he's left so much more evidence to
prosecute him with -- and possibly because his "lock her up"
campaign slogan amounted to taunting.
Andrew Prokop: [03-30]
Donald Trump has been indicted. The hush money case against him,
explained. The story, updated many times, from a staple post.
But until people see the actual indictment, it's hard to speculate
on how strong the case is. Prokop also wrote: [04-01]
How to tell when an investigation is politicized. His criteria
seem to be: how similar is this to the Kenneth Starr prosecution of
Clinton? He doesn't really know, but that isn't stopping him from
spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt). Of course, anything
involving Trump is bound to be politicized, as Trump will blame
political motives, and likely realizes that his offenses are seen
as part of his political persona. This leads to a second question
which Prokop doesn't ask: should people with political motives be
exempt from prosecution? As someone long identified as a leftist,
I can't think of any such precedent. I'm especially annoyed by the
line: "if they can go after Trump, they can go after anybody."
Where have these people been? They've been going after anybody
for well over a century. It's only people like Trump who felt
themselves above the law, immune from prosecution.
Alex Shephard: [03-30]
Did Trump Do Worse Things? Sure. But This Indictment Is a Great
Start. Shephard also wrote: [03-31]
A Field Guide to the Right's Hysterical and Desperate Response to Trump's
Indictment. I always get a kick out of the line (attributed here to
Vivek Ramaswamy, but I've probably heard it 20 times so far): "If they
can do it to Trump, they can do it to you." Of course, if you committed
the same crimes Trump is charged with, they always could have "done it
to you" -- and wouldn't have given it a second thought. What's new is
that they're even, finally doing it to Trump.
Perry Stein/Shayna Jacobs: [03-31]
Trump lashes out against New York judge who will hear his criminal
Asawin Suebsaeng/Adam Rawnsley: [03-29]
Trump Asks Advisers for 'Battle Plans' to 'Attack Mexico' if
Michael Tomasky: [03-31]
What Trump and Republicans Don't Understand About the Law.
Brett Wilkins: [03-31]
'This P*ssy Grabbed Back': Stormy Daniels Speaks Out After Trump
Li Zhou: [03-31]
The indictment adds to a long list of times Republicans have backed
Trump. List is admittedly "non-exhaustive."
Inspirational tweet (sure, we're all criminals, which makes
it so unfair when any of us get charged):
Lauren Boebert: If they charge President Trump for his
crimes, they could charge any of us for our crimes. The rule of law
means nothing to these people.
PS: I was later surprised that I didn't come up with anything
on Trump's post-indictment fundraising. A quick search revealed:
Other Republicans: DeSantis, McCarthy, and the rest simply
couldn't keep up last week.
Israel: If we were keeping something like the "doomsday
clock" on the question of when does Israel turn genocidal, I wouldn't
put it a few minutes before midnight (like the Bulletin of Atomic
Scientists does), but this week it definitely moved past noon.
Ben Armbruster: [03-29]
Lawmakers ask Biden to investigate Israel's use of US arms: The law
says that "American weapons sales cannot be used to commit human rights
abuses," but Israel has long gotten a free pass.
Haim Bresheeth-Zabner: [03-31]
Israel's rightwing government represents the Judaization of Zionism.
"The statistics are clear: Israel is safely on its way to becoming a
Jewish version of the Islamic Republic." It is worth remembering that
before 1948, the Zionist movement was overwhelmingly secular, even in
its "revisionist" Jabotinsky wing, while religious Jews in Palestine
(going back centuries) tended to be anti-Zionist. However, Ben-Gurion
decided he wanted the imprimatur of the rabbis, so cut a deal to let
religious parties into the government. Their numbers increased with
the immigration of Jews from Arab states, and they developed their
own peculiar vision of Zionism, especially as they led the post-1967
settler movement. They cemented their gains by being power brokers,
switching between Labor and Likud governments depending on who gave
them the best deal. As their power grew, there was a secular backlash
a few years back, but by then the division between Jews and Palestinians
was so deep that even secular Jews couldn't bridge it. In the latest
elections, Netanyahu was so desperate to return to power (and to keep
out of jail) that he effectively surrendered the government to his
religious party partners, giving them effective power even though
they still only represent a minority of Israeli Jews.
Ryan Cooper: [03-30]
The Occupation Is Eating Israeli Democracy.
Ruth Margalit: [03-29]
Israel's transformative protest movement.
Jonathan Ofir: [03-31]
Meet Avichai Buaron, the new Likud lawmaker who advocated for 'extermination
camps' for Israel's enemies. Richard Silverstein also wrote
about this: [03-30]
New Israeli MK Advocated Death Camps for Palestinians.
Shira Rubin: [04-02]
Israel to form national guard proposed by far-right minister Ben Gvir.
Israel is not exactly lacking for internal security organizations, but
this one would report directly to Ben Gvir, who "has been convicted
dozens of times for charges that include support for terrorist
organizations and anti-Palestinian incitement." I don't see this
working out well. Even Hitler eventually moved to disband the SA
(Sturmabteilung, aka "brown shirts") when they got out of hand.
Philip Weiss: [03-28]
US media turn on Netanyahu (finally) for meddling in US policy.
Cites important articles by Sharon Pardo/Yonatan Touval: [03-23]
Netanyahu Has Made Israel a US Adversary; and James Bamford:
The Trump Campaign's Collusion With Israel (which I commented on
last week). Weiss also wrote: [04-01]
'Soft gloves' police treatment of Jewish protesters reveals Israeli
Jeff Wright: [03-12]
'Til Kingdom Come unpacks the power and politics of Christian Zionism:
Documentary film by Maya Zinshtein. Wright also wrote a review of
another recent film: [04-02]
The Law and the Prophets offers a master class on Israel's
control of Palestinians.
Syria, Iraq, Iran, etc: A couple late items on the 20th
anniversary of the Bush invasion of Iraq, but also a sudden rash
of articles about the region (mostly about blowing it up).
Sina Azodi/Arman Mahmoudian: [03-28]
Iran's historic interdependence with Russia takes a turn -- over
Dave DeCamp: [03-30]
Milley Says the US Should Attack Iran's IRGC Quds Force. I think
he means in Syria (and possibly Iraq), as opposed to directly attacking
Iran, but he could be more specific. The US mission in Syria has always
been schizophrenic, and it's become increasingly pointless as Assad has
tightened control over almost all of the country. Of course, Israel is
doing the same thing: see [03-31]
Israel strikes Damascus for second time in 24 hours, kills IRGC officer.
Daniel Larison: [03-31]
Centrist DC think tank: US should threaten war, regime change in
Iran: CNAS (Center for a New American Security), no names here,
but I suppose "centrist" means that the Democrats are even hawkier
than the Republicans (it wouldn't be hard to staff a roster like
Ted Galen Carpenter: [03-31]
Syria episode shows how contractors still used to fight America's
Blaise Malley: [03-28]
Iraq War cheerleader reunion: it wasn't the failure you think it was:
"Robert Kagan claims US standing across the globe is just fine. The
rest of the world wants 'more America, not less.'" Some names here
have new books I've been noting recently, including Robert Kagan,
Stephen Hadley, and Melvyn Leffler. Kagan, by the way, also figures
prominently in Medea Benjamin/Nicholas JS Davies: [03-17]
The Not-So-Winding Road from Iraq to Ukraine.
James North: [04-01]
An Iraqi writer's brilliant book shows how the 2003 US invasion detonated
20 years of awful violence: Review of Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: A
Stranger in Your Own City: Travels in the Middle East's Long War.
The author was a young architect in 2003. He became a translator/fixer
for foreign journalists, went on to write and photograph his own
articles (mostly for Guardian), and remained on the front
lines at least through the fight with ISIS in 2017: "no American
or European writer could have done this."
Philip Weiss: [03-22]
The US establishment's fever to smash Iraq must not be forgotten.
Ukraine War: Both sides continue to publicly build up their
cases that they cannot be defeated, and that they can continue to fight
indefinitely. We're supposed to be impressed by that?
Blaise Malley: [03-31]
Diplomacy Watch: Privately, experts ask White House 'what's the longer-term
David Atkins: [03-29]
Trump, DeSantis Say They Just Want Peace in Ukraine. Don't Fall for
It. I started to write something about this piece, then tore it
up, because it's too easy to get sucked into a rathole about the
insincerity of "fascists for peace." But I came back to it, because
I hate the idea of attacking anyone for "just wanting peace," even
characters as execrable as the headline. I also hate the practice
of dredging up the reluctance of many Americans to get involved in
WWII, even if Charles Lindbergh and "the original 'America First'
crowd" were Nazi symps (except to point out that Trump's father
attended a notorious 1939 pro-Nazi rally in Madison Square Garden).
Having read a lot of history on the subject, I'm probably more
attuned to incipient fascism than most, but Nazi/Fascist charges
only obscure the causes and stakes of the Ukraine war (as, for
that matter, do high-minded paeans to democracy), and act mostly
as pro-war recruiting signals. (For example, this page provides
links to two 2014 pieces by Ed Kilgore:
Russia as the New Fascist Threat, and
Ukraine and the Sudeten Analogy. Kilgore, of course, is one of
those liberals whose neverending "search for monsters to destroy"
led him to support the Bush War in Iraq.)
I also object to the assumption that the real (or only) reason
Trump, DeSantis, and other Republicans have for opposing US support
for Ukraine -- if that's what they're doing; describing Ukraine as
"a regional conflict" doesn't reflect the official line but isn't
all that inaccurate -- is that they are Putin fans/fools. There is
a long and honorable tradition in American politics, going back to
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and articulated most famously
by John Quincy Adams, of military entanglements around the world.
This tradition was unfairly lampooned as "isolationism" during the
intoxication of WWII and the rise of the Cold Warriors afterwards,
but we now have 75 years of evidence suggesting that restraint and
peaceful diplomacy and commerce would have been a wiser course.
Granted, Trump's actual presidency gives us no reason to believe
that he understands what it takes to avoid the wars he claims not
to believe in. Indeed, history will record that he made a complete
botch of Ukraine during his four years as president.
Jonathan Guyer: [03-29]
What US weapons tell us about the Russia-Ukraine war: As the
chart makes clear, arming Ukraine is overwhelmingly an American
project. What isn't clear is how much arms like tanks are meant
to advance a negotiating position or just an offensive hoping to
reclaim Russian-occupied territory, because neither Ukraine nor
the US seems to have a coherent negotiating position.
Fred Kaplan: [03-27]
What Putin's Latest Nuke Announcement Really means: "It's all just
for show -- but it could backfire."
Ivan Nechepurenko/Anatoly Kurmanev: [04-02]
Influential Russian Military Blogger Is Killed in St Petersburg
Jake Werner: [03-31]
What Biden means when he says we're fighting 'global battle for
democracy': So, you see, he's hosting this Summit for Democracy,
which among other oddities included a panel featuring Narenda Modi
and Benjamin Netanyahu, leaders in legislating ethnocracies, which
deny fundamental rights to minorities, while still pretending to
Joshua Yaffa: [03-31]
The unimaginable horror of a friend's arrest in Moscow: Wall
Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested and charged
with espionage. Even if true, it's hard to imagine that reporting on
Russia is more damaging than descending into hostage-taking. For more,
see Connor Echols: [03-30]
Ex-CIA official: No way detained WSJ reporter is a US spy. Also
Jonathan Guyer: [03-30]
The first US journalist was just arrested in Russia since the Cold
Dean Baker: [04-01]
The Social Security Scare Story Industry: One of those scare
stories showed up in my local paper. I'm not surprised at how few
people actually understand how Social Security works, but you'd
think the ones who write on it for major news chains would show
some initiative. The real future problem with Social Security and
Medicare is whether we elect politicians who understand the need
to take care of the elderly and infirm, or we elect a bunch of
jerks (i.e., Republicans) who don't care and can't be bothered.
Baker also wrote: [03-29]
The Silicon Valley Bank Bailout: The Purpose of Government Is to
Make the Rich Richers #63,486. I don't think he's actually
counting, but feels like the right ballpark.
Shirin Ghaffary: [03-31]
Elon Musk wants to fill your Twitter feed with paid accounts:
As of April 15, "Twitter will only recommend content from paid
accounts in the For You tab, the first screen users see when they
open the app." That sounds like it will be 100% advertising. The
alternative to "For you" is "Following," which actually gives me
something more like what I expected: tweets from people I follow,
plus ones those people forward. I've been looking at my own view
stats, and I'm pretty disgusted with what I'm seeing: my tweets
announcing "Speaking of Which" posts are ultimately viewed by a
bit less than 15% of my followers. "Music Week" announcements get
more views, but still only about 50% of my followers (or that's
what the total works out to: they usually get a retweet or two,
so that helps the spread). Consequently, I'm questioning the whole
utility of the platform. And I suspect that that in a few weeks a
blue checkmark will be recognized as a stigma instead of as proof
of authenticity. They're really just pissing on their brand.
Drew Harwell: [04-02]
Twitter strikes New York Times' verified badge on Elon Musk's
orders: "The Times and other news organizations say they won't
pay for the icon, which [was originally] designed to protect against
impersonation." Evidently, they haven't removed all the blue checks
yet, probably to obscure the question of how many suckers have paid
up, but after the Times publicly refused to pay up, Musk decided to
make an example of them.
Prem Thakker: [03-31]
Sorry Elon, No One Cares About Losing Their Blue Checkmark on
Twitter. There's a list here of famous publishers opting out.
This flows into a another piece: "Twitter Admits It's Been Forcing
Elon Musk on Your Timeline." I recently clicked on "Following"
instead of the default "For you," and the Musk tweets have (so
William Hartung: [03-26]
The Pentagon's Budget from Hell: Congress Has Been Captured by the
Arms Industry: "The ultimate driver of that enormous spending
spree is a seldom-commented-upon strategy of global military overreach,
including 75 U.S. military bases scattered on every continent except
Antarctica, 170,000 troops stationed overseas, and counterterror
operations in at least 85 -- not, that is not a typo -- countries
(a count offered by Brown University's Cost of War Project."
Sean Illing: [03-30]
The media wants the audience's trust. But is it being earned?
Interview with Brian Stelter, who wrote Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox
News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth. Illing has a point:
"So it's not that Fox doesn't have a right-wing bias; it's that it
primarily exists to flatter the delusions of its audience, and
they do it even when they know it's bullshit." That's an insight
that could apply to other media companies, which are all defined
by their ability to corral and exploit a predictable audience.
But Fox's audience is more deluded than most, and it's easy to
push their buttons. Moreover, they've captured a political party,
which means they can make much of the news they report, and give
their audience a rooting interest.
Robert Kuttner: [03-28]
What Comes After Neoliberalism? "We are winning the battle of
ideas. We have a long way to go before we win the politics." I
hear an echo here of one of my pet ideas: I believe that the New
Left won the "battle of ideas" in the 1970s, resulting in sweeping
changes to how we think about war, race, sex, the environment, and
consumer rights, but part of that constellation of ideas was a
profound mistrust of power, as well as a sharp critique of the
previous generation of liberals (especially those who brought us
the Cold War and the hot war in Vietnam), so very little effort
got made to secure liberation with political power. (The New Left
was also divided on labor unions, which after Taft-Hartley had
largely abandoned the struggle to organize poor workers, and
which mostly exercised their power within the Democratic Party
to support the warmongers.) The result is that we've seen much
erosion on these fronts, even though there's little popular
support for the reaction.
A big part of this erosion can be ascribed to elements in the
Democratic Party who tried to craft a "kindler, gentler" version
of neoliberalism -- with scant success, given that any time they
tried to make something decent out of market solutions, Republicans
were there to wreck their efforts. (Clinton claimed he had crafted
a good welfare reform bill, only to find it passed by a Republican
Congress wrapped up in "a sack of shit." Obamacare didn't fare
much better.) It's true that there are new ideas gaining purchase
among Democrats (some even embraced by Biden, who the neoliberal
faction settled on as their "anybody but Bernie" candidate), but
it's premature to claim that they've gained the upper hand over
What is clear, though, is that neoliberalism has
failed, both as an economic doctrine and as a political movement.
As for the terminology problem, I'm inclined to go with democracy:
we need a political order that puts people ahead of profit, that
puts industry and commerce to work for the betterment of everyone.
The key to doing that is to give everyone more rights, so they
can take back the state and redirect it for the general welfare.
The Republicans ran on exactly that platform in 1860: "Vote yourself
a farm; vote yourself a tariff!"
Jack McCordick: [03-29]
How Big Business Hijacked Freedom: Interview with Naomi Oreskes
and Erik M Conway, authors of The Big Myth: How American Business
Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market. Telling
that the issue that originally set the NAM (National Association of
Manufacturers) off was their opposition to child labor laws.
Ian Millhiser: [03-30]
The lawsuit that threatens everything from cancer screenings to birth
control, explained: "A notoriously partisan judge has launched a
new attack on one of Obamacare's key provisions."
More on the courts:
Matt Ford: [03-30]
It's 2023, and Conservatives Are Still Trying to Sue Obamacare Out of
Existence. Judge Reed O'Connor "struck down a major part of the
Affordable Care Act on Thursday. . . . O'Connor was the favored
destination of such suits for years: He has found the ACA to be
unconstitutional, either in whole or in part, at least four times
now, leaving the appellate courts to clean up his many messes."
Charles P Pierce: He cranks out
several posts every day, most worth reading (many I could have
filed in various spots above):
Paul Rosenberg: [04-02]
What crisis of democracy? Scholar Larry Bartels says the real crisis
is corrupt leaders: Shorter title: "Maybe we just elect bad people."
Interview with Bartels, who wrote Democracy
Erodes From the Top: Leaders, Citizens, and the Challenge of Populism
in Europe. Focus is on European leaders like Viktor Orban and
Giorgia Meloni, but key point applies to American political leaders
as well, especially Donald Trump, who didn't exactly run as an
authoritarian but exercised his power as arbitrarily and capriciously
as he could get away with, resulting in a quite striking erosion of
democratic norms and expectations.
Jason Samenow: [03-26]
How Mississippi's tornadoes unfolded Friday night and why they were
so deadly: I read this piece with considerable interest, having
grown up in what used to be called "tornado alley": roughly an oval
from a bit south of Oklahoma City to a bit north of Wichita, spreading
out maybe a hundred miles east and west. After a large tornado wiped
out the small town of Udall, about 20 miles southeast of Wichita,
when I was 5 or 6, Kansas got its act together and built a pretty
robust tornado warning system. The frequency of tornados declined
over the last decade or two, shifting east and south, but until then
the grim statistic was that despite getting many fewer tornados than
Kansas, the state with by far the most tornado deaths was Mississippi.
That's what happens when your state hates you. I haven't looked at
those stats recently, but with the climate shift on top of America's
most decrepit state government, the situation can only have grown
worse (despite the fact that at the national level, weather forecasting
has gotten markedly better). More tornado reports this week:
Kelefa Sanneh: [03-27]
How Christian is Christian nationalism? This is a question that I,
as someone who doesn't believe in, and for that matter distrusts, both
Christianity and nationalism, am indifferent to, yet perversely curious
about. The latter is probably because I once had what I felt to be a
pretty sound grounding in at least one strain of Christianity, and I
suspect that most self-professed Christian nationalists have a very
different understanding. This piece reviews a couple books: Paul D
Miller's The Religion of American Greatness: What's Wrong With
Christian Nationalism; and Stephen Wolfe's The Case for Christian
Dylan Scott: [03-31]
The number of uninsured Americans is about to jump dramatically for
the first time in years: "Starting April 1, states will begin
removing millions of people off Medicaid's rolls as a pandemic-era
program that kept them enrolled expires."
Jeffrey St Clair: [03-31]
Roaming Charges: Spare the AR-15, Spoil the Child. Beyond the
Nashville shooting story (noted in introduction), see the excruciating
long list of failures in America's so-called justice system, as well
as a few obvious comments about the ICC, and numerous other stories
that should make you stop and think. Much more, including a link to
Pharoah Sanders in 2011.
I don't feel like elevating this to the "major story" section, but
if I catch more links on guns, hang them here:
Hannah Allam: [03-27]
The radicals' rifle: "Armed groups on the right and left exploit
the AR-15 as both tool and symbol." Left? Well, they found some, and
they've bought guns to defend against "real threats," by which they
mean the gun nuts on the right.
Ben Beckett: [03-31]
The Right Is Flat-Out Admitting It Doesn't Care About Gun
Violence. The right don't care whether you, or your children,
live or die. The right don't care if you're miserable. The right
thinks the world can go to hell, and they'll carry on as oblivious
Emily Guskin/Aadit Tambe/Jon Gerberg: [03-27]
Why do Americans own AR-15s: Polling as to why misses the obvious
category (although some of the given categories are subsets): "because
I'm an asshole." Other factors are largely as expected. Note that only
8% of US adults overall have served in military, but 28% of AR-15 owners
have, as have 18% of other gun owners. Hunting is not a reason for 52%
of AR-15 owners. The other 48% are lying and/or assholes (the two are
Alex Horton/Monique Woo/Tucker Harris: [03-27]
Varmints, soldiers and looming threats: See the ads used to sell the
AR-15. One ad reads: "Consider your man card reissued."
N Kirkpatrick/Atthar Mirza/Manuel Canales: [03-27]
The Blast Effect: "This is how bullets from an AR-15 blow the body
Jonathan Swan/Kate Kelly/Maggie Haberman/Mark Mazzetti: [03-30]
Kushner Firm Got Hundreds of Millions From 2 Persian Gulf Nations:
Now, this is how you do graft. Moreover, it's unlikely that he'll ever
get prosecuted for the "stupid shit" that keeps tripping Trump up.
Li Zhou: [03-30]
Why train derailments involving hazardous chemicals keep happening:
"another train has derailed and caught fire in Minnesota." Also: