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Monday, November 23, 2020

Chris Monsen Facebook post: "some of the new releases this week that tickled my fancy:"

  • Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra: Dimensional Stardust
  • Uuskyla, Øgrim, Berg, Nilsson: ISN HI LAGT SAE PÅ FJELLVATNA
  • Eris 136199 (park, Sikora & Didkovsky): Peculiar Velocities
  • Love Moor: Motions
  • Mingus in Bremen

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Trump still refuses to concede. I thought he was a national embarrassment before the election, but hadn't even anticipated this. My apologies to all the pundits I made fun of for expecting, and even "war gaming," his intransigence. Jimmy Kimmel has started calling his lame duck period Squattergate.


Trump's Election Fraud

No serious observer thinks Trump has a chance of stealing back the election at this point, but as best I can figure, continuing to press his case does three things Trump's likely to regard as positives: it keeps his name at the top of the news, thereby keeping Biden and the Democrats from building on their win; it shows his base he's willing to fight for them (well, himself), even when the cause seems lost; and it lays the foundation for a scorched earth resistance against Biden and everything the Democrat-Socialists want to do. The downside, of course, is that it makes him look like a jerk and an asshole who has no concern for any part of the country beyond his following, but let's face it: you already knew that. I know a lot of people who thought they couldn't possibly despise him more than they did on November 3, but most of them now admit they were wrong: he's even more loathsome than they imagined.

David Atkins: Trump is staging a comically incompetent coup.

Dana Bash/Gloria Borger: Trump told ally he's trying to get back at Democrats for questioning legitimacy of his own election. "The President, this source said, 'doesn't see' how bad the aftermath of all of this could be for the country, and for democracy itself. As usual, he's focused on himself."

John Cassidy: Rudy Giuliani is a hot mess.

Christina Cauterucci: Shame the random, unknown government officials aiding Trump's coup attempt.

Jonathan Chait:

Kyle Cheney: Trump campaign cuts Sidney Powell from president's legal team. Just when she was upstaging Rudy Giuliani as the biggest laughing stock on retainer. Another take: Walter Einenkel: Trump campaign now says lady who lied with Giuliani for 2 hours at presser not really on legal team.

Chas Danner: Federal judge rebukes Trump's effort to overturn Pennsylvania election results: "In a scathing ruling, the judge said the Trump campaign was trying to 'disenfranchise almost 7 million voters.'" Also on this: Ian Millhiser: A Republican judge just tore into Trump's election lawyers for their incompetence.

Timothy Egan: Donald Trump is leaving behind blueprints to end democracy.

Garrett Epps: In election litigation, an ominous sign.

Edward B Foley: If the losing party won't accept defeat, democracy is dead. This has become a common thread for pundits, especially at the Washington Post:

Matt Ford: The unpardonable sins of Lindsey Graham. Also on Graham:

Masha Gessen: The coup stage of Donald Trump's presidency. Right after the election, I ridiculed efforts to describe Trump's refusal to accept plain results a coup, but he's persisted so steadfastly that there's little doubt that a coup is precisely what he would like to see. What escapes him is how one might work, but as long as he refuses to concede the fort, he has hopes that some kind of force might still come to his rescue. Gessen, on the other hand, has seen plenty of coups (successful and otherwise).

In the coup stage of his Presidency, Trump has continued to be Trump: he has shown no ability to plan or plot, but plenty of resolve and willingness to act. He fired military brass and the chief of election cybersecurity, Chris Krebs, for daring to contradict him. He garnered more than seventy million votes. He has showcased considerable power, in other words, but so far it doesn't seem to be enough to persuade Americans that he will keep it. For now, Trump's coup attempt seems doomed.

But, as is his way, Trump is succeeding even as he fails. His project all along has been to destroy the political order as we have known it. An overwhelming majority of Republican elected officials are hedging their bets on the coup attempt -- whether in order to humor Trump or appease his base, they have neglected to recognize the results of the election. The Tuesday-night incident at the Wayne County election board showed that at least some election officials will do Trump's bidding.

Alex Isenstadt: Trump threatens to wreak havoc on GOP from beyond the White House. Hey, bring it on!

Ed Kilgore: Rudy melts down over Trump and 'voter fraud' during insane press conference.

Jen Kirby: A Trump official is still blocking Biden's presidential transition. House Democrats want answers. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy.

Robert Mackey: Defeated Trump campaign tells supporters "The Left HATES YOU" in fundraising emails: The left hates Trump, not Trump supporters. Feels sorry for their mental anguish, and sometimes fears how irrationally they may act out. But the left's programs would actually help most Trump supporters. Just maybe not Trump.

Ian Millhiser: Trump's lawsuits challenging the election have turned into a clown show: "Republican officials aren't just losing. They're embarrassing themselves." Pictured: Rudy Giuliani.

Andrew Prokop: How long can Trump keep disputing the election results?

David E Sanger: Trump's attempts to overturn the election are unparalleled in US history.

Anya van Wagtendonk: Trump lashes out at fellow Republicans as his legal challenges to election results fail.

Li Zhou: 73 percent of Republican voters are questioning Biden's victory: Per a Vox poll.

Other Election Matters

Ross Barkan: The Biden campaign's decision not to knock on doors was a huge mistake.

Gabriel Debenedetti: Election night with Biden's data guru.

Fintan O'Toole: Democracy's afterlife: "Trump, the GOP, and the rise of zombie politics."

It is impossible not to think, in this in-between moment, of Antonio Gramsci: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." Something is dying, but we do not yet know what. Is it the basic idea of majority rule or is it the most coherent attempt to destroy that idea since the secession of the Confederacy? Something is trying to be born, but we cannot yet say what it is either. Is it an American version of the "managed democracy" or "electoral autocracy" that is the most rapidly expanding political form around the world? Or is it a radically renewed republic that can finally deal with the unfinished business of its history? The old is in a state of suspended animation; the new stands at a threshold it cannot yet cross.

I would have gone elsewhere with the Gramsci quote. Most Democrats seem to be suffering from PTSD. They've been so traumatized by Trump that they've lost faith in their own basic principles, so they hardly campaign on them. Moreover, they regard Trump as such an anomaly that they fail to recognize that he's part and parcel of the Republican Party. They fret over the Republican base falling for Trump's folly, when it would be more accurate to point out that Trump is the one who fell for the crazed, vicious worldview. On the other hand, there are Democrats who see this clearly, yet they were unable to prevail in the primaries -- mostly due to the tsunami of Bloomberg cash, and the panic of pandemic. I still have faith in the left's clarity and reason, but O'Toole is haunted by darker thoughts:

The historic question that must be addressed is: Who is the aberration? Biden and perhaps most of his voters believe that the answer could not be more obvious. It is Trump. But this has been shown to be the wrong answer. The dominant power in the land, the undead Republican Party, has made majority rule aberrant, a notion that transgresses the new norms it has created. From the perspective of this system, it is Biden, and his criminal voters, who are the deviant ones. This is the irony: Trump, the purest of political opportunists, driven only by his own instincts and interests, has entrenched an anti-democratic culture that, unless it is uprooted, will thrive in the long term. It is there in his court appointments, in his creation of a solid minority of at least 45 percent animated by resentment and revenge, but above all in his unabashed demonstration of the relatively unbounded possibilities of an American autocracy.

Andrew Prokop: Georgia's Republican secretary of state just certified Biden's victory.

Michael Tomasky: What did the Democrats win?

Li Zhou: Why Republican women candidates had such a strong year. As I recall, in 2018, when Democrats elected a lot of new women to Congress, the number of Republican women in the House remained constant. This year it's jumping from 22 to 36, while the count of Democratic women is little changed, at 105. How exactly does that justify this headline?

Biden Prospects

I've been avoiding speculation on Biden cabinet picks, figuring what will be will be, but just noticed this one: Biden chooses Antony Blinken, defender of global alliances, as Secretary of State. You may recall mention of Blinken last week. Robert Wright has been writing a series on Grading Biden's foreign policy team, and I linked to his assessment of Blinken, with its overall grade of C- (teacher's comment: "Tony is bright and studious but needs to do a better job of learning from past mistakes"). Wright followed up with a report card on William Burns, who fared considerably better at A- (B grades for military restraint and international law).

Kate Aronoff:

  • Joe Biden can't compromise with the rising seas.

  • Democrats' fear of the Green New Deal is tearing the Party apart: "Why are party leaders so scared of a policy that's demonstrably popular?" I have a slightly different question. Given that GND doesn't have any intrinsic definition (unlike, say, single-payer health insurance), what is keeping Democratic Party leaders from just picking out a few things they like and calling it their GND? Most likely it's that Republicans have had some success at condeming GND as an extreme radical-liberal project, and mainstream Democrats are used to running scared from Republican attacks. It's worth stepping back and thinking about this a bit. There are two directives to GND: one is to accelerate public infrastructure development, specifically to provide plentiful energy while reducing carbon emissions, thereby reducing climate change without crippling the economy. The second is to make sure that the jobs created come with livable wages and benefits. Why should any Democrats oppose either of those programs? One might argue about how much to spend how soon, and how to pay for it -- which shouldn't be the big deal opponents try to make it out to be. But those are just basic principles, especially for someone like Joe Biden, who's talked a lot about climate change and better wages. If you do those basic things, what does it matter what you call it?

Peter Beinart: The Biden problem. Specifically, about foreign policy: Biden has moved significantly left on domestic policy, but if anything mainstream Democrats (especially those calling themselves "security Democrats" during the impeachment process) have retrenched even deeper into American exceptionalist orthodoxy.

Thomas Geoghegan: An FDR-size executive order for Biden: "With one stroke, the new president could revive the labor movement and help repair the post-pandemic economy."

Even with a hostile Senate, there is at least one executive order that could do more to transform the country than single-payer health care or the Green New Deal -- indeed, an order that could help pave the way toward those goals. Biden could require as a condition in every federal contract that every supplier of a good or service have a collective bargaining agreement -- unless there is no such supplier that can perform that contract at a reasonable cost or comparable quality. Such an executive order would do more to revive the labor movement than many a federal law -- and it wouldn't require Mitch McConnell's permission.

Dylan Matthews: 10 enormously consequential things Biden can do without the Senate. From the unnumbered subheds (although there are major caveats in the small print, and even so I'm not sure Biden is on board for many of them):

  1. Fight climate change
  2. Forgive student debt
  3. Expand immigration
  4. Ease the ban on marijuana
  5. Reverse Trump's rollback of air pollution and lead poisoning rules
  6. Cut back on factory farming
  7. Create a postal banking system
  8. Crack down on Wall Street
  9. Crack down on monopolies
  10. Expand access to health care

Luke Savage: Joe Biden should take a hard look at what Obama did in 2009 -- and do exactly the opposite. By the way, a pretty good book on Obama's transition and initial choices is Reed Hundt: A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions, especially given that Biden is inheriting the worst recession America has faced since the one Obama inherited (in some ways it's arguably worse, in which case you might want to supplement your reading with Adam Cohen: Nothing to Fear: FDR's Innter Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America). One of the biggest mistakes Obama made was to put off proposing any big infrastructure projects because they weren't "shovel ready" and he thought only short-term stimulus (like tax breaks and cash) would be necessary. (Feel free to blame Larry Summers for that decision. Also note how tightly Summers and Timothy Geithner limited Obama's choice in economic advisers.)

Dylan Scott: What Biden could do to expand health coverage -- without Congress. But: "Undoing Trump's health care actions won't be as easy as it sounds." Some problems are bureaucratic, but most were built into the program, even before Trump and the Republicans started beating on it.

Rob Urie: Democrats and the canard of 'too far left'.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 12.3 million+ cases (14 day change +59%), 256,581 deaths (+62%), 83,227 hospitalized (+50%). The mapmaker had to shift the scale to restore some gradation to what had become a vast red blob.

Lavender Ali: How China crushed coronavirus.

Eleanor Cummins: Why we can't comprehend 250,000 Covid deaths. Statistics, sure, but don't underestimate the truth Upton Sinclair discovered: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

James Hamblin: How Trump sold failure to 70 million people: "The president convinced many voters that his response to the pandemic was not a disaster. The psychology of medical fraud is simple, timeless, and tragic."

Elliot Hannon: Tyson Foods supervisors allegedly bet on how many plant workers would get coronavirus.

Umair Irfan: Pfizer and BioNTech have applied for emergency approval for their Covid-19 vaccine.

German Lopez: The next Covid-19 superspreading event: Thanksgiving.

Alexis Madrigal/Whet Moser: How many Americans are about to die? "A new analysis shows that the country is on track to pass spring's grimmest record."

Nick Martin: Scott Atlas, star disciple in Trump's Covid death cult: "The task force adviser is there to incite the president's base and facilitate the slow, deadly violence of our failed federal response to the pandemic."

Anna North: Why restaurants are open and schools are closed.

Amy Qin/Vivian Wang/Danny Hakim: How Steve Bannon and a Chinese billionaire created a right-wing coronavirus media sensation: "Increasingly allied, the American far right and members of the Chinese diaspora tapped into social media to give a Hong Kong researcher a vast audience for peddling unsubstantiated pandemic claims."

Katie Shepherd: Trump coronavirus adviser tells Michigan to 'rise up' against new shutdown orders.

John Wagner/Colby Itkowitz/Michelle Ye Hee Lee: Donald Trump Jr, the president's eldest son, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Also might as well note: Kate Riga: Rick Scott becomes the 6th member of Congress to test positive this week. Also: Sean Collins: Sen. Kelly Loeffler has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ed Yong: Hospitals know what's coming: "'We are on an absolutely catastrophic path,' said a COVID-19 doctor at America's best-prepared hospital."

Still More on Donald Trump

Chas Danner: Lara Trump is considering Senate run in North Carolina: In 2022, for retiring Senator Richard Burr's seat.

Juliet Eilperin: Trump officials rush to auction off rights to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before Biden can block it.

Randall D Eliason: The case against indicting Trump. Author recently wrote Yes, going after Trump's law firms is fair game, so he's drawing some fine distinctions.

Paulina Firozi: Trump administration exits Open Skies treaty. This was announced six months ago, but it's still shocking to see it happening, especially with Trump heading out the door.

Danny Hakim/Mike McIntire/William K Reshbaum/Ben Protess: Trump tax write-offs are ensnared in 2 New York fraud investigations.

David M Halbfinger: For Netanyahu and Israel, Trump's gifts kept on coming: "Allowing the convicted spy Jonathan Pollard the ability to emigrate to Israel was just the latest in a long list of prizes for America's closest ally in the Middle East." I always gag when I see "ally" in this context. Allies are concerned with your welfare. Allies come to your aid. Israel does whatever it wants, and expects Americans to clean up the mess, and pay them billions every year for the trouble. The twenty-year debacle of the Global War on Error isn't all Israel's fault, but it would never have happened without Israel: first, by generating so much bad will, but also by providing the inspiration for the neocon approach, which is to always project power, and suffer the consequences of perpetual war. As for Pollard, good riddance. But the list doesn't end there, and in every other respect we've been ill-served by the Trump administration's slavish prostration to Israeli ego and arrogance. Also on Pollard:

Sean Illing: How TV paved America's road to Trump: Interview with TV critic James Poniewozik, author of what I regard as the single most useful book on Trump, Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America.

Jill Lepore: Will Trump burn the evidence?: "How the President could endanger the official records of one of the most consequential periods in American history."

Steve M.:

  • This is asymmetric warfare, and the GOP has the advantage:

    One of the main reasons we're in this mess is that Republicans have spent years preparing their voters for a moment like this -- and Democrats haven't.

    As I often say, the right-wing media and Republican officials tell GOP base voters every day, whether or not we're in election season, that Democrats are evil, deceitful people who are responsible for all the ills of the world, occasionally in partnership with alleged allies such as antifa or the jihadist movement. Republicans voters have heard this for so many years that they don't need to be persuaded that Joe Biden -- who seems like a decent, human person to us -- is either the mastermind or the unwitting dupe of a fiendish plot cooked up by all-powerful supervillains to steal an election. Of course Biden and his henchmen could fake a couple hundred thousand votes in six states! Of course they could conceal the evidence so deftly that President Trump's lawyers and investigators can't uncover it! The absence of evidence isn't proof that the election was honest and fair -- it couldn't possibly be! Democrats are too evil! No dyed-in-the-wool Republican voter needs evidence to be persuaded that something terribe happened. Our malign nature is an article of faith! Proof isn't necessary. . . .

    And the mainstream media seems incapable of imagining the possibility that the Republican Party might be dangerous and malignant. Surely it's just Donald Trump! Or Trump plus Republicans temporarily in thrall to him! Surely the party's four years of coddling Trump aren't a sign that there's something inherently wrong with the party, any more than the GOP's extreme positions on climate change and gun ownership and abortion and the regulation and taxation of rich people and corporations are signs that the party can't be trusted! Despite all that, the GOP is seen not only as a respectable center-right party but as the party of normal Americans, while the Democratic Party is the party of non-whites and effete white freaks and weirdos.

  • Who's really addicted to Trump? Republicans and journalists. Starts with a link to a Frank Bruni column, anticipating the pains of withdrawal from our daily Donald Trump fix. SM sagely comments:

    Get a grip, Frank. It's fine to keep writing about Trump, at least for now. Trump is still with us. He destroys democracy a little more every day. People who study fascism express serious concern about his ongoing efforts to overturn the results of the election.

    But if we can ever be rid of him, we'll be fine. Trust me, I know. Years ago I obtained a copy of The Book on Bush: How George W. Bush (Mis)leads America by Eric Alterman and Mark Green, as well as The Man Who Would Not Shut Up, a biography of Bill O'Reilly by Marvin Kitman. There was a time I thought I'd read these books. But Bush and O'Reilly passed from the scene and I just . . . didn't. I gave the books away. If I think about Bush or O'Reilly now, I remember how much I despised them and how angry I was at the damage they'd done to America. But I rarely think about them. I'm much more concerned with the people who are actively doing harm today.

    That's how I'll be once Donald Trump is no longer a figure of influence in America. I'll be fine. The rest of his critics will all be fine.

Jonathan Mahler: Can America restore the rule of law without prosecuting Trump? Long article, covers a lot of possible grounds for prosecution. "No ex-president has ever been indicted before, but no president has ever left office with so much potential criminal liability."

Ben Mathis-Lilley: White nationalist appointed by Trump to Holocaust Commission praised Jeffrey Epstein for not being "a pussy" -- isn't this the ultimate Trump headline?

Philip Rucker/Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey: Trump privately plots his next act -- including a potential 2024 run: Well, he filed the paperwork to campaign in 2020 the day after inauguration in 2017, so he understands how campaign finance works as a racket, and is not coy about getting in early. In the UK, the opposition party has what they call a "shadow cabinet": an MP designated to respond politically to each cabinet minister. Trump could proclaim himself Shadow President, and demand air time to respond to every Biden appearance. He might find that more fun than he ever had actually being president. On the other hand, he'll lose much of his immunity from prosecution and civil lawsuits when he leaves office (not that being an ex-president and a billionaire won't cut him some slack), so he might be better off toning down his profile. Check out the Mahler article above for an outline of the cases that could (and probably should) be brought against him.

Claudia Sahm: Is Trump trying to take the economy down with him? "His Treasury secretary is shackling the nation's central bank and closing an emergency program for local governments." The New York Times Editorial Board on this: Mnuchin's inglorious endgame.

Richard Silverstein: Trump wanted to attack Iran, they talked him out of it . . . for now. A Trump military attack on Iran has been a great fear for some time now, perhaps as an "October surprise," or as a lame duck parting gift. This gives you an indication of how close he came to doing it. After all, "Trump loves wreckage."

Emily Stewart: Why Trump and McConnell are trying -- and failing -- to push through Fed pick Judy Shelton.

James Webb: Ending 'endless wars' could cement Trump's foreign policy legacy: Well, maybe if had done it three years ago, and secured policy changes with clear directives, redeployments, and personnel changes, he'd have a legacy. Instead, he escalated the wars erratically, gave "allies" a free hand to expand their own wars, repeatedly hired (and had to fire) hawks like John Bolton, subverted possible efforts at diplomacy. A.J. Muste used to say: "There is no way to peace; peace is the way." Just one of many things Trump never came close to understanding. I think it is true that Trump won votes in 2016 because Hillary Clinton tried to out-hawk him (remember her "commander-in-chief test"?). Conservative anti-war pundits invested great hope in Trump as an alternative to the neocon/neoliberal war nexus. Even today, Doug Bandow is writing: Donald Trump isn't gone yet and I already miss him. What he's really saying is that he doesn't trust Biden, and fears that Biden will be worse than Trump, because Biden has always gone along with bipartisan defense and security posturing. Still, he could have just said that, as Beinart and others cited above have done, but he still relishes the idea that conservatives are good guys -- even Trump.

Robin Wright: What will a vengeful president do to the world in his final weeks?

Obama Has a Book to Sell

Barack Obama is doing a press tour to promote his memoir, A Promised Land, reportedly the first of two volumes (one for each term). I watched the first half of his interview on Jimmy Kimmel. It was refreshing to see a major political figure with a self-effacing sense of humor, talking about a recognizably normal family life. I turned it off before Kimmel got around to promised questions about the issues and events that constitute his legacy. Four years of Donald Trump helps us remember what his appeal was, slightly different from how twelve years of Obama and Trump have dulled our sense of how awful George W Bush was.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: On Barack Obama's A Promised Land. Flagship New York Times review. Book sounds awful -- not in the same way ghost written books for Bush or Trump would be, but a long, deep, blinkered trawl through a deeply heartfelt worldview that was rarely up to what was needed. Especially troubling is his inability to counter Republicans even a decade after the fact. Then there is this:

With foreign policy, he is less guarded. He even manages a kind of poetic jingoism, where nearly every criticism of the United States is mere preface to an elegant and spirited defense. In this sense Barack Obama defies the stereotype of the American Liberal for whom American failure on the world stage is not the starter course but the main. He is a true disciple of American exceptionalism. That America is not merely feared but also respected is, he argues, proof that it has done something right even in its imperfectness. "Those who complained about America's role in the world still relied on us to keep the system afloat," he writes, a reactionary position, as if it were innately contradictory to question America's outsize role and also expect America to do well at the job it chose to give itself.

All that talent, and the best he could do for American jingoism was make it more poetic?

Ryan Grim: Obama book: Rahm Emanuel cooked up deal to promise Larry Summers Fed Chair. The way I understood the story is that Summers and Tim Geithner were the only candidates for Treasury, and Geithner refused to consider any other position, so Summers had to settle for the Council of Economic Advisers -- a position he used to prevent anyone else from offering advice to Obama. The real question nobody's answered is why anyone wanted to hire either of them, let alone put them in charge of the recovery. Both were, after all, totally in the pocket of the big banks, as they amply proved. Sure, Summers wanted the Fed Chair job even more, but due to staggered terms it wouldn't open up for a year. When it did, Obama reappointed Ben Bernanke -- a big mistake, I always thought, for while he wasn't the worst ever, you'd think Obama would have gone with his own person, given how much power the Fed Chair has to make or break his economy.

Constance Grady: In his new memoir, Obama defends -- and critiques -- his legacy.

John F Harris: Could Obama have been great?

Peter Kafka: Obama: The internet is "the single biggest threat to democracy." I would have said money, and its control over media. There's a lot more money in the Internet now than 4, 8, 20 years ago, and it's taken a toll, but Fox News still bothers me a lot more than Facebook.

Osita Nwanevu: Barack Obama doesn't have the answers: "The former president seems unable to reckon with the failures of his presidency and diagnose the Republican Party's incurable nihilism."

Alex Shephard: Barack Obama, media critic.

Paul Street: The real v. the liberal fantasy Obama presidency: Two excerpts from Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement: Street's recent book.

Around the World

Masha Gessen: The abortion protests in Poland are starting to feel like a revolution.

Fred Kaplan:

Terrence McCoy: Bolsonaro ran against corruption. Now, he'll have to find another slogan. You'd think so, but Trump ran on the same anti-corruption themes he used in 2016. The key is getting people to believe that it's only corruption when someone else does it.

Mitchell Plitnick: Pompeo's attack on BDS is an assault on free speech. That's kind of the lowest common denominator reaction to Pompeo, whose main thrust is less that you can't say you don't like Israel's human rights abuses as that you can't do anything about it. The whole point of BDS is to do something tangible that can lead to real changes but that doesn't incite or condone violence. Israel would rather face violence, which they're used to dealing with, than BDS, which questions their morality. However, free speech does come into play here, because the only way to counter the logic of BDS is to prohibit discussion of it.

Alex Ward:

Other Matters of Interest

Reed Albergotti: Apple is lobbying against a bill aimed at stopping forced labor in China.

Dean Baker: "Protecting intellectual property" against China means redistributing income upward.

Damian Carrington: Renewable energy defies Covid-19 to hit record growth in 2020.

Jonathan V Last: The Republican Party is dead. It's the Trump cult now.

JC Pan: Charles Koch got the free-market dystopia he wanted. Now he'd like your approval. "The same billionaire who refashioned the American political system to suit his needs is now calling for bipartisan cooperation -- on his terms." Also on Koch: Garrison Lovely: The reputation launderers: "Talking with monsters like they're not monsters isn't journalism -- it's cowardice."

Jeremy W Peters:

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: The gang that couldn't sue straight.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Daily Log

Got an EOY list from publicist Matt Merewitz, who is usually pretty good about sending me things. Thought I should just copy it down as a checklist of sorts (my grades in brackets, ** indicates I didn't get a CD but streamed it anyway):

  • Aaron Parks & Little Big: Little Big II (Ropeadope) ** [B+(**)]
  • The Awakening Orchestra: volume ii: to call her to a higher plain (Biophilia) ** [B+(***)]
  • Ben Goldberg: Plague Diary (BAG)
  • Benny Benack III: A Lot of Livin' to Do (LA Reserve) [B+(**)]
  • Bob James: Once Upon A Time: The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance) [B+(**)]
  • Cat Toren's Human Kind: Scintillating Beauty (New Focus) ** [B+(***)]
  • Christopher Hollyday: Dialogue (Jazzbeat Productions) [B+(**)]
  • Dave Douglas: Dizzy Atmosphere (Greenleaf Music) ** [B+(**)]
  • Dayna Stephens Quartet: Right Now! Live at the Village Vanguard (Contagious Music) [B+(***)]
  • Emi Makabe: Anniversary (Greenleaf Music) [U-]
  • Endless Field: Alive in the Wilderness (Biophilia) [B+(**)]
  • Gilfema: Three (Sounderscore) [B+(**)]
  • Gregg August: Dialogues On Race, Vol. 1 (Iacuessa) ** [B+(***)]
  • Jay Clayton/Fritz Pauer/Ed Neumeister: 3 for the Road (Meistero Music) ** [B+(**)]
  • Jim Snidero: Project-K (Savant) [B+(***)]
  • Joe Fiedler's Big Sackbut: Live in Graz (Multiphonics Music) ** [B+(**)]
  • John Ellis: The Ice Siren (Parade Light) [B]
  • John Hollenbeck: Songs You Like a Lot (Flexatonic) [B-]
  • Jorge Roeder: El Suelo Mio (self-released) ** [B+(*)]
  • Kenny Barron & Dave Holland Trio: Without Deception (Dare2) [A-]
  • Kassa Overall: I Think I'm Good (Brownswood) ** [B+(*)]
  • Lara Driscoll: Woven Dreams (Firm Roots) [B+(***)]
  • Lawrence Sieberth: An Evening in Paris (self-released) [B+(**)]
  • Lori Sims/Andrew Rathbun/Jeremy Siskind: Impressions of Debussy (Centaur) [B]
  • Matthew Shipp: The Piano Equation (Tao Forms) [B+(**)]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: The Unidentifiable (ESP-Disk') [A-]
  • Max Bessesen: Trouble (Ropeadope) [B+(**)]
  • Micah Thomas: Tide (self-released) ** [B+(**)]
  • Raf Vertessen Quartet: LOI (El Negocito)
  • Reverso (Ryan Keberle, Frank Woeste, Vincent Courtois): The Melodic Line (Out Note) [B+(*)]
  • Simon Moullier: Spirit Song (Outside In Music) [B+(***)]
  • Somi: Holy Room: Live at Alte Oper with Frankfurt Radio Big Band (self-released) [B+(*)]
  • Tani Tabbal: Now Then (Tao Forms) ** [A-]
  • The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound (Muhal Richard Abrams): Soundpath (ARS Nova Workshop) ** [B+(***)]
  • The Westerlies: Wherin Lies The Good (Westerlies) [B+(***)]
  • Tropos: Axioms // 75 AB (Biophilia) ** [B+(*)]
  • Whit Dickey Trio: Expanding Light (Tao Forms) ** [A-]
  • Wood River: More Than I Can See (Enja-Yellowbird) ** [B]

Monday, November 16, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34356 [34320] rated (+36), 220 [223] unrated (-3).

I continued my post-election practice of starting each day with a couple of vintage jazz CDs, although I stopped tweeting about it at some point. I published the previous week's selection, so might as well follow it up with this week's (as best I recall):

  • Don Byas: Don Byas on Blue Star
  • Charles McPherson: But Beautiful!
  • Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um
  • Sonny Rollins: Falling in Love With Jazz
  • Sidney Bechet: The Legendary Sidney Bechet
  • Duke Ellington: The Far East Suite
  • Coleman Hawkins: A Retrospective 1929-1963 [2CD]
  • Earl Hines: Piano Man! (ASV's 1928-41 big band comp)
  • Roy Eldridge: The Nifty Cat
  • Ben Webster/Buck Clayton: Ben and Buck
  • Ben Webster/Harry Edison: Ben and Sweets
  • Lester Young: The "Kansas City" Sessions

Only a couple A- records on that list (very solid ones). The Mingus (A+) got an encore spin. Only one today, as I had to venture out early. The practice cut down on my listening, especially from the demo queue (which I'm working on now). Still got a fairly decent haul. Several records I was tipped to from Facebook posts (e.g., Aesop Rock, Harald Lassen, Big Mama Thornton). Several came from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: I already had Thelonious Monk and Elizabeth Cook (both of them) at A-, Margo Price at B+(*), and Low Cut Connie at B, so I checked out the rest (aside from Slim Gaillard, who I like enough to have given his 4-CD Properbox Laughin' in Rhythm an A-, but didn't expect the 2-CD Verve reviewed to improve on the 1-CD Verve from 1994, Laughin' in Rhythm). Pleasant surprise from the list was Rodney Rice, but where he was nice and comfy, I wound up preferring Tim Barry's anger (choice cut: "Prosser's Gabriel"). The Barry tip, by the way, came from Napster, explained thusly: "because you like Johnny Cash." They're often wrong (not least about what I like), but for someone I had never heard of that was a pretty good tip. One caveat: given its 2-hour-plus length, I only played the record once. Still left me feeling it's more likely to get better than worse.

I noticed this Richard Scheinin tweet:

Sad news: the passing of Andrew White, one of the most brilliant & exciting saxophonists I've ever witnessed. An outrageous character, too. Brilliant man. Coltrane transcriber. Oboist. Electric bassist with Stevie Wonder and Weather Report. R.I.P., genius.

I've heard a few records White played on, but his name never stuck in my mind, and I don't have anything by him in my database. I searched for records online and came up empty. Wikipedia credits him with 42 albums, but they're self-released, and I'm not finding them anywhere. (I did find some YouTube videos -- one fairly long one I listened to was pretty impressive.) Seems like getting his music organized on Bandcamp would be a good project for his estate.

I've done some work on the Christgau website (not updated yet). I have all of the And It Don't Stop Consumer Guides in my database, and have written a bit of code that drops the most recent reviews out (supposedly this is an incentive for people who pay for their subscription). The transition from PHP 5 to 7 broke the old database code (and other stuff), so I'm having to go through dozens of files and rewrite code. Started that project way back, got distracted, but now I'm finally intent on plugging through to the end, at which point it'll be possible to update the database.

I can also tell you that Francis Davis and I will be doing another Jazz Critics Poll this year. Invites should be going out real soon now. (I heard "over the weekend" but haven't seen mine yet.) If you think you should be invited but haven't been in the past, or have been and haven't heard from us within the week, please send email and make your case. NPR will publish the headline results, and I'll publish all the gritty details, as usual. To help out, I've prepared a version of my music tracking file that omits my grades and only lists jazz albums. It covers everything I've noted since December 1, 2019, plus some earlier 2019 albums that were so obscure I hadn't noticed them in the 2019 music tracking file. Obviously, the list is far from complete.

I still haven't done any fine tuning for my own EOY lists, but you can see them in their initial state here: Jazz and Non-Jazz. I did a bit of reshuffling, but I'm still not very happy with the ordering -- especially non-jazz, where I own virtually none of the records and haven't replayed any (other than Dua Lipa) since they came out. Also, I've barely started the 2% section on prospects I haven't heard (but would like to).

EOY lists should start appearing around Thanksgiving, which is next week. (I've given zero thought to cooking for anyone, then or pretty much forever.) Meanwhile, my metacritic file offers a few hints as to how the year's shaping up.

I'm sitting on a tough question about African music. Would be nice if you asked me more.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Aesop Rock: Spirit World Field Guide (2020, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: B+(***)
  • Susan Alcorn Quintet: Pedernal (2019 [2020], Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Tim Barry: Live 2018 (2018 [2020], Chunkasah): [r]: A-
  • Noah Bless: New York Strong: Latin Jazz! (2020, Zoho): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Will Butler: Generations (2020, Merge): [r]: B+(***)
  • Carla Campopiano: Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections, Vol. II (2020, self-released): [cd]: B
  • The Nels Cline Singers: Share the Wealth (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cortex: Legal Tender (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • André Fernandes: Kinetic (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rich Halley/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio/Newman Taylor Baker: The Shape of Things (2019 [2020], Pine Eagle): [cd]: A-
  • Theo Hill: Reality Check (2019 [2020], Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jaga Jazzist: Pyramid (2020, Brainfeeder): [r]: B+(**)
  • Harald Lassen: Human Sampling (2020, Jazzland): [r]: B
  • José Lencastre/Jorge Nuno/Felipe Zenícola/João Valinho: Anthropic Neglect (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • Nicole Mitchell/Moor Mother: Offering: Live at Le Guess Who (2018 [2020], Don Giovanni): [bc]: B
  • Ikue Mori/Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Prickly Pear Cactus (2020, Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Oneohtrix Point Never: Magic Oneohtrix Point Never (2020, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lee Ranaldo & Raül Refree: Names of North End Women (2020, Mute): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rodney Rice: Same Shirt, Different Day (2020, Moody Spring Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Scott Routenberg: Inside (2020, Summit): [cd]: B
  • Sad13: Haunted Painting (2020, Wax Nine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alexa Tarantino: Charity (2020, Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(*)
  • Trees Speak: Ohms (2020, Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andreas Tschopp Bubaran: Tumbuk (2019 [2020], Enja/Yellowbird): [bc]: B
  • Savina Yannatou & Joana Sá: Ways of Notseeing (2020, Clean Feed): [r]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Blue Note Re:imagined 2020 (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Brian Eno: Film Music 1976-2020 (1976-2020 [2020], Astralwerks): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mort Garson: Didn't You Hear? (1970 [2020], Sacred Bones): [r]: B
  • Mort Garson: Music From Patch Cord Productions (1968-74 [2020], Sacred Bones): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Heshoo Beshoo Group: Armitage Road (1970 [2020], We Are Busy Bodies): [r]: B+(***)
  • Space Funk: Afro Futurist Electro Funk in Space 1976-84 (1976-84 [2019], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Peter Stampfel/The Dysfunctionells: Not in Our Wildest Dreams (1994-96 [2020], Don Giovanni): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley: Being Astral and All Registers/Power of Two: Live at the Ulrichsberg Festival, May 10th 2002 (2002 [2020], Discus Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Neil Young/Crazy Horse: Return to Greendale (2003 [2020], Warner): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Rodney Rice: Empty Pockets and a Troubled Mind (2014, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sad13: Slugger (2016, Carpark): [r]: B+(*)
  • Big Mama Thornton With the Muddy Waters Blues Band: 1966 (1966 [2004], Arhoolie): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Friesen With Orchestra and Quartet: Testimony (Origin)
  • Jihee Heo: Are You Ready? (OA2)
  • Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Mantle (Libra)

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Not really a proper introduction, but I want to reiterate one point made below. It occurs to me that a lot of the anomalies of the election make sense as artifacts of the exceptionally high turnout. As I recall, back in 2010 it seemed like most of the Democratic vote drop could be traced to low voter turnout compared to 2008. The lesson there seemed to be that Democrats do better when more people vote, and that made a certain amount of sense because non-voters tend to be younger and less stable economically -- i.e., people who would vote Democratic if they had reason to bother. That ignored the fact that 2010 voter turnout was about the same as in 2006, when Democrats swept both houses of Congress. Obviously, different people chose not to vote in those elections -- mostly ones who lost faith in their party's handling of power. But the high turnout in 2020 suggests a different dynamic. As participation increases, the main thing that increases is the share of uninformed or misinformed voters, and they tend to be all over the map, voting R or D based on half-baked notions about what parties mean and do. And let us not forget the other major facts of 2020: the natural rhythm of campaigning was disrupted by the pandemic, which seems especially to have hurt Democrats (due to their greater wariness of the virus); incredible sums of money was spent, mostly on misleading television advertisements (where the Republicans were total frauds, and Democrats struggled to present a coherent message that matters to most people); the media continued to cover Trump as an eccentric celebrity, while ignoring most of the real things done by his administration and party. I think it's likely that the main reason the polls were off was that their qualifications for "likely voters" were off. A lot of unlikely voters wound up voting, and more of them than one might rationally expect ignorantly pulled the lever for Republicans. I say "ignorantly" because if you ask them why, it's extremely unlikely they'll offer an explanation that could pass even a rudimentary fact check. I think the signature here is to be found in Trump's much-touted improved share of Black and Latin votes. Clearly, he did nothing to earn those votes honestly, so the fact that he got them suggests confusion.

In other news, the big stories are tragedy and farce: the Covid-19 surge, and Trump's continuing charade to deny his election loss. Needless to say, the farce only adds to the tragedy. I can only hope that other Americans are as thoroughly disgusted with Trump as I am.

I'd like to get rid of the Table of Contents breakdown, but there's even more of it this week. Also a bit arbitrary to sort the post-election pieces out, so many wound up slotted under Biden or Trump. We're starting to see some pieces on what the Biden administration will (or could) look like. I haven't linked to many -- at this point it's mostly speculation and/or plotting -- as I'm not privy to any inside info, and I'm not likely to be consulted or referred to. I will say the following:

  • There are some Democrats it would be bad form to bring back. I don't have a long list, although it would probably grow if I gave it some thought, but for starters: Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emmanuel, Joe Lieberman, Lawrence Summers, Ash Carter, Madeleine Albright.
  • I'm against nominating any sitting US Senators. The Senate is too important right now. There's been discussion of Sanders and Warren, but both represent states with Republican governors, so could be net losses. At any rate, we need those two as independent voices for progress -- not as administration cronies. (I'd be OK with stealing a Republican Senate seat, although I don't know how you go about doing that. Ron Johnson?)
  • The left doesn't need representation in the Cabinet. All the left needs is an open door and a fair hearing. I also don't care about quotas or such. Clinton claimed to have a "cabinet that looks like America." By looks sure, but for the clothes and the bankrolls and the Ivy League degrees.
  • Biden's security people will inevitably draw on the same Washington think tanks that have owned American foreign policy for the last 60 years, so expect to be disappointed there, but don't assume they'll continue making the mistakes they've made repeatedly over the last 20-30 years (personally, in many cases). Conditions change, limits appear, and war weariness has set in like never before. They say "personnel is policy," but focus on the policy. (Of course, if Biden nominates a Kagan or Bill Kristol, by all means go apeshit.)

Parting advice: let Biden be the centrist he wants to be, but challenge him on issues, and bring forth real and substantive plans. Biden is more or less the center of the party. Move him and you move the party.

PS: I was going to link to several articles from The American Prospect (e.g., Robert Kuttner, David Dayen), but balked when they refused to show me a second without registering. Probably harmless to do so, but my skepticism is what keeps the Internet safe for me. But this also rubs a bugbear of mine. The only way to get better informed voters is to make information free. I'm not unsympathetic to the notion that progressives need to make a living, and I certainly know that writing is work, but I get tired of getting hit up for money all the time, especially when I'm trying to do the world a favor.


Election Aftermath

James Arkin: Health care vs. 'radical leftists': Parties re-running 2020 playbooks in Georgia runoffs. Also on Georgia:

David Atkins: Biden won big, but his approach may have cost Democrats downballot. I think it did, at least to the point that Biden didn't stress the message that he needs a Democratic Congress to deliver on his issues. Given his opponent, Biden was able to hold back, spouting nebulous notions (like "soul of the nation") instead of campaigning on issues, which Democrats had in spades thanks less to the fickleness of Trump than to the sociopathy of Republicans. It was, after all, Democrats who led on the CARES Act that got the country through the lockdown. It's Democrats who want a livable minimum wage, and who want every American to have health care. Those are winning issues, but only if you run on them.

Katelyn Burns: Biden plans on swiftly rolling back some Trump policies with executive orders.

Jonathan Chait: Trump's election challenges keep getting laughed out of court.

Nancy LeTourneau: Reefer madness: On the curious effect of the Marijuana Now Party candidates in Minnesota congressional races, which seem to have helped Republicans (and in at least one case were recruited by Republicans).

Eric Levitz: David Shor's postmortem of the 2020 election. Interview with the Democratic pollster. Also refers to his "other interview," with Dylan Matthews: One pollster's explanation for why the polls got it wrong. Shor argues that Trump voters aren't "shy" so much as they are cynical and distrust pollsters, which makes them reluctant to answer prying phone calls. Conversely, anti-Trump voters were more interested in voicing their displeasure with Trump, partly because they are more invested in democratic processes. This suggests a systemic bias in polling that's going to be hard to factor out.

German Lopez: America's war on drugs has failed. Oregon is showing a way out. For more:

Madeline Marshall: Weed was the real winner of the 2020 election: "Americans are turning against the war on drugs."

Matt Naham: Lawyers litigating for Trump suddenly remember their licenses are on the line if they lie to a judge.

Ella Nilsen: House Democrats will keep their majority for two more years.

Andrew Prokop:

Aaron Rupar: The 2000 election doesn't justify Trump's refusal to concede to Biden. Here's why.

Alex Shephard: The media finally figured out Trump. Now do the GOP.

David Siders: 'A grand scheme': Trump's election defiance consumers GOP.

Nate Silver: The polls weren't great. But that's pretty normal. Also at FiveThirtyEight:

Jacob Silverman: Postelection misinformation and massacre threats on conservatives' favorite new social media app: "Ted Cruz and Dinesh D'Souza have huge followings on Parler, a right-wing Twitter clone that has exploded in popularity since the election."

Over the weekend, Parler became the most downloaded app in the country, a position it was still holding as of Tuesday morning. It's also the app in which Lang Holland, the police chief of Marshall, Arkansas, on Friday called for his fellow users to join him in traveling to Washington, D.C., to "fight our way into the Congress and arrest every Democrat who has participated in this coup? We may have to shoot and kill many of the Communist B.L.M. and ANTIFA Democrat foot soldiers to accomplish this!!!" Holland added, "Death to all Marxist Democrats. Take no prisoners leave no survivors!!" He has since resigned.

Founded in 2018 and surging since this summer, when it at one point gained a million users in a week, Parler has been adopted by practically every media personality and politician of note on the right, including some you might have forgotten. (Milo Yiannopoulos, banned from Twitter and polite society for his pedophilia apologetics, uses Parler to promote his paid video appearances on the service Cameo.) Some of them are racking up huge follower counts: 1.8 million for Bongino, 2.9 million for Ted Cruz, 1.3 million for Dinesh D'Souza. Posting many times per day (often by simply syndicating their tweets), they attract thousands of "echos," the site's equivalent of a retweet, "upvotes," and comments.

Matt Stieb: Incoming GOP senator apparently doesn't know basics of World War II. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) missed the fact that the US fought against Nazi Germany in WWII.

Benjamin Wittes: How hard is it to overturn an American election?

So yes, the president is allowed to sulk. He is allowed to be the sorest of sore losers. He is allowed to once again display before the entire world the complete triumph of ego over patriotism, of self-interestedness over public-spiritedness, within his heart. There is, actually, nothing to do about it if he wants to play it this way; there is no way to stop him. And in and of itself, it's not even a particularly grave problem. It is certainly sad that the United States has a president who so completely fails the basic tests of honor and decency. It would be lovely to see him just once rise to some occasion, any occasion. But it's hardly a surprise that he can't or he won't or he doesn't want to. He is, after all, Donald Trump.

Matthew Yglesias: The problem with exit poll takes, explained.

Li Zhou/Ella Nilsen: How North Carolina and Maine dashed Senate Democrats' hopes of a "blue wave". The loss to Susan Collins shows that Democrats still aren't ready to put partisan interests above personal quirks. North Carolina shows that Republicans do just that. The asymmetry has repeated killed independent Democratic candidates, especially in Senate races. Which makes it all the harder to prevail in the Senate, given the built-in anti-Democratic bias.

Biden Prospects

Sam Adler-Bell: The brewing Democratic fight over Biden's cabinet.

Albena Azmanova/Marshall Auerback: 2020 was the 'precarity election'. I know quite a few words, but had to look up "precarity": "the state of being precarious or uncertain"; also more specifically: "a state of persistent insecurity with regard to employment or income." Subhed: "Democrats' failure to address the issue of economic precarity undermines their claim to be the party of the working class." We need to find a better way to express that idea.

Andrew Bacevich: After Trump, throw out the old foreign policy establishment, too.

Allison Crimmins: Why the Biden administration should establish a Department of Climate.

Melissa Gira Grant/Nick Martin/Katie McDonough/JC Pan: The election is over. Here's a vision from the left for the next four years. A collection of pieces from activists, mostly good ideas, few anywhere near fruition given present limits.

Ryan Grim: What went wrong in the House? "In answering that question, don't ignore the Democratic consultant class."

Naomi Klein: Now we have to fight Trump's tin-pot coup -- and Biden's worst instincts. I don't doubt the latter, but also don't see much value in anticipating them. Trump has made clear his intent to make the transition period as difficult as possible, leaving Biden so much to remedy that it's hard to see much point in squabbling over details. Later on, sure, the left needs to defend its principles, but not to weaponize them against against Biden, who for various reasons is in a very precarious situation.

Sonali Kolhatkar: America -- and the Democrats -- won't have a future if Joe Biden adopts a centrist agenda.

Eli Lehrer: What Joe Biden could learn from Harry Truman about hiring Republicans: I'm skeptical, but don't doubt that there are places where an occasional Republican might help rather than harm. However, understand that any Republican who works for (or even consorts with) the Biden administration will be branded a traitor by the party faithful, and will bring in damn little support. The point on soft vs. hard positions is well taken, and would be a good way to bring left Democrats into the administration without surrendering much power. But what makes it work is that left Democrats have ideas that actually help, unlike wandering Republicans.

Nick Martin: The agenda is still survival: "The Democratic Party can't be mired in intraparty fights about what's 'too far left.' Life as we know it is at stake."

Sara Morrison: How Biden's FCC could fix America's internet: "The FCC can bring back net neutrality and help Americans stay connected during the pandemic." Could, but note that Biden got a lot of money from Silicon Valley, and that Obama had a pretty shoddy record of appointing industry flacks to the FCC. Net neutrality is an easier call because there are industry interests on both sides of the issue, but there's still a big gap between what the less obnoxious parts of the industry wants and what people could actually benefit from.

Ella Nilsen: Democrats are already at odds over how to win in 2022.

Hadas Thier: Biden and the Dems should have buried Trumpism. But they provided no alternative. That's pretty unfair. Anyone who made the slightest effort should realize that Biden offers a clear and major contrast to Trump: He offered a return to the conventional pieties of American politics, to the conventions of unity that Trump flagrantly trashed. Admittedly, he's not nearly as articulate as Barack Obama, and his campaign came off as slack and cliché-ridden. He failed to make the point that Trump and Republicans down ballot are equally dangerous, and he didn't unify Democrats in anything beyond their disgust with Trump. On the latter score, his distancing from policies of the party's left-wing lent credence to Republicans' blanket attacks on all Democrats as radical socialists. It would have been better had he emphasized common principles: rather than attack Medicare-for-all, he could have emphasized his commitment to health care as a universal right; rather than trash Green New Deal, he could have stressed the need for infrastructure development, to limit climate change and to make the economy run more efficiently. In short, he could have gone far toward unifying Democrats on principles rather than dividing them on policies. But then, well, he wasn't a very articulate candidate. Related:

Robert Wright/Connor Echols: Grading Biden's foreign policy team: Tony Blinken. This will likely be a series. The authors previously wrote Introducing the progressive realism report card, and Wright wrote Grading criteria for progressive realism report cards.

Matthew Yglesias: Joe Biden needs to avoid a return to "eat your peas" budgeting.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

The latest covid numbers are: 11+ million cases (14-day change +80%), 245,777 deaths (+38%), hospitalizations 69,455 (+43%). The first and second "peaks" on the chart look like mere speed bumps now. Sedgwick County, KS is regularly setting new records, and all the ICU beds in Wichita are full. Cases are up in virtually every state (Kansas is number 11). Trump carried 10 of the top 13 states.

Half or more of the following articles could have been filed in the more explicitly political sections, but have slopped over here. Not least because pandemic response has become so very political.

Julia Belluz: Why the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is a cause for optimism -- and skepticism.

Jerusalem Demsas: 80 percent of those who died of Covid-19 in Texas county jails were never convicted of a crime.

Igor Derysh: To truly recover, US needs 400% more coronavirus relief than McConnell is offering, economists say. Since McConnell got reelected, why not flood Georgia with ads pointing out that votes for Senate Republicans are nothing more than votes for McConnell's plan to strangle states, cripple small businesses, and starve the unemployed? McConnell makes a much more convincing bogeyman than Chuck Shumer or Nancy Pelosi -- the stars of virtually every Republican scare ad over the last year.

Dan Goldberg/Alice Miranda Ollstein: Pandemic on course to overwhelm US health system before Biden takes office.

Eric Levitz: A nightmare COVID winter could force a GOP awakening on stimulus. Only if the stock market tanks again. Nothing else seems to phase them, and if they think they can blame the stock market on Biden, maybe not even that.

German Lopez: America's third Covid-19 surge, explained.

Nick Martin: Republican malice has turned the pandemic into a deadly loop: "The GOP blocks the stimulus. Nonessential businesses reopen and people go back to work because they need money. Cases surge. People die."

Eleanor Mueller: Health officials sound alarm over impact of Trump's transition blockade.

Benjamin Rosenberg: The second White House coronavirus outbreak: Mark Meadows, the Secret Service, and more.

Dylan Scott: Trump's final two months in office might be the worst Covid-19 months yet.

Michael Tomasky: There's a word for why we wear masks, and liberals should say it: "It's high time Democrats played some philosophical offense on the concept of 'freedom.'" Last week it was David Harvey instructing the left on the importance of embracing the concept of freedom -- for different reasons, to different ends. "Freedom" is a versatile word, and the right's use of it rests on a peculiar ratiocination. So why not? Just don't think it's an elixir. It's as likely to muddle as to inform.

Zeynep Tufecki: It's time to hunker down: "A devastating surge is here. Unless Americans act aggressively, it will get much larger, very quickly."

David Wallace-Wells: Un-normalizing America's third wave. Notes that the number of US deaths due to Covid-19 now exceeds "the number of people who died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

Still More on Donald Trump

Zeeshan Aleem: Violence followed the "Million MAGA March" in Washington, DC: Of course it did. Otherwise, evidently very little to report on. Curiously little on turnout. Here's what I found:

John Cassidy: The long-term damage of Trump's antidemocratic lies.

Nancy Cook/Gabby Orr: Trump aides privately plot a flurry of moves in their final 10 weeks: "The White House is eyeing executive orders and regulations on immigration, trade, health care, China and school choice."

Tom Engelhardt: Donald Trump knew us better than we knew ourselves. Subtitle, but more evocative than "Gloom and Doom 2020" or "State of Chaos." Sure, he knew how to play half of America, mostly because he's soaked up the vitriol spewed 24-7 on Fox News, adding only enough ego to think himself the leader of his perverse world. On the other hand, he hardly knows the rest of us at all.

Trumpism has split America in two in a way that hasn't been imaginable since the Civil War. The president and the Senate are likely to be in gridlock, the judicial system a partisan affair of the first order, the national security state a money-gobbling shadow empire, the citizenry armed to the teeth, racism rising, and life everywhere in an increasing state of chaos.

Welcome to the (Dis)United States. Donald Trump led the way and, whatever he does, I suspect that this, for at least the time being, is still in some sense his world, not Joe Biden's. He was the man and, like it or not, we were all his apprentices in a performance of destructive power of the first order that has yet to truly end.

Michelle Goldberg: The post-presidency of a con man: "Out of office, Trump might seem a lot less formidable." Goldberg previously (10/29) wrote a piece I can certainly relate to: Four wasted years thinking about Donald Trump. Also (11/07): We are finally getting rid of him.

Doug Henwood posted a link to a 1934 article by Leon Trotsky: Hitler's National Socialism, and commented on it in Facebook:

This 1934 essay on Hitler et al. by Trotsky appeared in the Yale Review, of all places, and it's pretty fabulous. Lots of relevance to the Trump phenomenon, though there are some differences. Trotsky estimated the petty bourgeoisie to about half the German population; ours is much smaller. And big capital is not yet behind the Trumpy mission, as it was behind the Nazis.

Trotsky wrote:

The leader by will of the people differs from the leader by will of God in that the former is compelled to clear the road for himself, or, at any rate, to assist the conjuncture of events in discovering him. Nevertheless, the leader is always a relation between people, the individualistic supply to meet the collective demand. The controversy over Hitler's personality becomes the sharper the more that the secret of his success is sought in himself. In the meantime, another political figure would be difficult to find that is in the same measure the focus of anonymous historic forces. Not every exasperated petty bourgeois could have become Hitler, but a particle of Hitler is lodged in every exasperated petty bourgeois.

This was written shortly after Hitler seized power, so at a time when Hitler's public support and messianic profile was roughly equal to Trump's. The difference, of course, is that Hitler was a ruthless tactician as well as a demagogue, which allowed him to consolidate power and remake Germany to embody his personal pathologies. There is little chance that Trump will be as successful and as disastrous, but it's not because his personal nature doesn't drive him to such extremes. He is hemmed in by historical constraints (and perhaps by his own ineptness), but his post-election behavior reveals him to be every bit the fascist we've long suspected him of. Secondary point: Marxists have often been exceptional journalists, starting with Karl (see, e.g., "The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte").

Ezra Klein: The crisis isn't Trump. It's the Republican Party. Interview with Anne Applebaum, who "wrote the book on why people choose to collaborate with authoritarian regimes," Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism.

Michael Kruse: Trump's crazy and confoundingly successful conspiracy theory.

Trump, after all, started preparing for what he was going to do if he lost this election before the last election. And he simply could not be doing what he's doing at this stage if he hadn't been doing it for this long. "He's able to do this now," said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian of authoritarians, fascism and propaganda who has a new book out this week titled Strongmen, "because of all that he's already set up."

It goes way back. "Donald is a believer in the big-lie theory," one of Trump's lawyers told Marie Brenner for a story in Vanity Fair 30 years ago this fall. "If you say something again and again, people will believe you."

Trump is an expert liar. The foundation of his existence is lies. He's not self-made. He's not a good businessman, manager or boss. He's an insider instead of an outsider. He's not been somehow singularly a victim but rather spectacularly privileged and lucky. "He is not who he says he is," former Trump casino executive Jack O'Donnell told me this past August. "He is," Trump biographer Michael D'Antontio said, "a walking lie."

Timothy L O'Brien: Why Trump fears leaving the White House: "Losing the presidency leaves him vulnerable to financial and legal danger."

Nathaniel Manderson: Understanding the Trump voters: Here's why nobody is doing it right: "I've been an evangelical pastor and a teacher in an immigrant community. I'm not shocked Trump did better this time."

Nick Martin: Consider the bootlicker: "Trump's time in office was a group effort. Here's a taxonomy of the grifters, sycophants, and opportunists who made it all possible for the last four years."

Alex Pareene: A coup is a coup: "It's still an illegitimate power grab, even if Republican operatives are only doing it to protect Trump's fragile ego." After Trump's repeated abuse of "coup" to describe impeachment, you'd think we'd be more careful in our choice of words now. Pareene seems to be responding to Matt Ford: This is (probably) not a coup d'état. But the fact is we have no proper word for Trump's stance now. I imagine it's not unprecedented -- surely there have been other elected leaders who have dragged their feet after losing elections, but it's hard to recall them, probably because so few got away with it. Perhaps Trump will become comparably obscure in the future.

Katha Pollitt: The Trump-shaped stain on American life.

James Risen: "We're not a democracy": Quote comes from Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who approves, and like most Republicans wants to see further barriers erected against the democratic impulses of the American people. But it's been Donald Trump who's done more than anyone to act upon Lee's precept. Attempting to discredit the election he just lost if just one more step after many.

While it would be cleansing to get rid of Donald Trump and his cronies, it will not be enough. Regardless of whether Trump wins reelection, the rot at the heart of the Republican Party -- particularly its deep-seated racism -- is not going away anytime soon. With or without Trump, America is in for a generation-long death match between the supporters of white identity in what is left of the Republican Party and supporters of a more diverse society, primarily Democrats.

Using the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the Electoral College, Trump and the Republican Party are trying to build defenses against changing demographics. Those mechanisms allow the party that controls the right states to retain power, even if that party does not represent a national majority. The Republican Party's objective is the political hegemony that comes from the strategic control of key states; it helps explain Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee's recent tweet, in which he noted that "we're not a democracy."

Nathan J Robinson: He'll be back: Starts, appropriately enough, with a New York Times headline from 1923, "Hitler virtually eliminated."

As I write, there are horns honking in the French Quarter and people cheering. I don't think they are overcome with emotional enthusiasm for the upcoming presidency of Joe Biden. They're just thrilled about the end of Donald Trump. For four years, this monstrous man has occupied our constant attention, committing crime after crime, escalating the climate crisis and terrorizing immigrants. Now, thank God, he has been narrowly defeated, and we face four years of a conservative Democratic presidency, which, while it cannot be expected to be good, at least spares us from the worst.

Aaron Rupar: Trump's turn against Fox News, explained: "The network sometimes engages with the reality that Biden won. For Trump, that's an unforgivable sin." More on Fox:

Maggie Severns: Where Trump's recount fundraising dollars are really going: "Money raised to pay for recounts goes to covering campaign debts, funding future political activities and boosting like-minded figures."

Nick Turse: Tantrum and theater: Trump's desperation after election loss isn't yet a coup.

Alex Ward: Why Trump is suddenly replacing Pentagon officials with loyalists. I'm reminded of how GWH Bush sent US troops into Somalia during his lame duck period, a poison pill which Clinton had to clean up later, after the whole operation went bad (remember "Black Hawk Down"?). Clinton, in turn, didn't do a very good job of cleaning it up, so 25+ years later the US is still bombing suspected "bad guys" in Somalia. The interesting twist here is that Trump's idea of a poison pill might not be starting or escalating a new war, but finally withdrawing troops from the endless war in Afghanistan -- a point of contention between Trump and DOD, one where Biden is likely to side with the generals. Americans in general, and Democrats in particular, would be pleased to leave Afghanistan, no matter what the consequences were. While continuing the status quo costs Biden little, having to decide whether to send troops back would be a lose-lose proposition. Trump might relish that.

Around the World

Murtaza Hussain:

  • Trump, the war president, leaves a trail of civilians dead in Yemen.

  • Trump destroyed any hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace -- and Biden can't rebuild it. One big reason Biden can't go back to the Clinton-Obama focus on a "two-state" solution is that it's been a mirage at least since Sharon's destruction of the Palestinian Authority after 2000. Reversing Trump's embassy move won't help that illusion. Nor would it help to undo the Kushner deals, the only effect of which has been to force Arab states to recognize Israel as a condition of American alliance -- which mostly means arms deals. Within this framework, the only thing that matters is mitigating the harsh effects of occupation on the Palestinians, which is to say, recognizing human rights. Needless to say, Trump has also acted to hobble international efforts to recognize human rights abuses everywhere in the world. Biden can and should try to reverse Trump on those policies. Of course, it's possible that Biden will try to have it both ways: defending human rights in general, while carving out an exception for Israel. Such hypocrisy makes a weak impression.

Nahal Toosi: Pompeo expected to announce process for US to label groups anti-Semitic. The criteria is simply whether a group has been critical of Israel, including for human rights abuses. Examples given in the piece: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam. Support for non-violent BDS strategies against Israeli human rights abuses would also be deemed anti-Semitic. Also note that official US designation will be used to further chastise and restrict anyone who regards human rights for Palestinians as important. Also see:

Alex Ward: The surprising Armenia-Azerbaijan peace deal over Nagorno-Karabakh, explained.

Other Matters of Interest

Douglas Belkin: Charles Koch says his partisanship was a mistake: "At 85, the libertarian tycoon who spent decades funding conservative causes says he wants a final act building bridges across political divides." This reminds me a bit of those former Shin Bet heads who spent their entire careers crushing Palestinian opposition, then in retirement decided Israel should have been more accommodating. Charles Koch had as much (maybe more) as anyone to do with making Donald Trump's presidency possible. I don't recall the exact words, but somewhere in Samuel Beckett (Happy Days?) there's an exchange where the son asks his father why he was ever conceived. The father replies, "I didn't know it would be you." After being born with millions, and spending all of a long life strutting and preening like a feudal lord, Koch discovers he wasn't so smart after all. Meanwhile, as with those Shin Bet tyros, his work is being taken up and furthered by younger men, as callous and arrogant as he ever was.

[PS: James Thompson linked to this on Facebook. I commented: "I wrote about this piece in my Weekend Roundup. On further reflection, this is less a mea culpa than a sly take on his own selfishness: a way of saying, now that I got what I wanted from politics, you should give up on politics and stop trying to change my world."]

Sasha Frere-Jones: American history XYZ: "The chaotic quest to mythologize America's past."

Umair Irfan: It's official: 2020 is the busiest Atlantic Hurricane Season on record: "Subtropical Storm Theta is now the 29th named storm of the season." More:

Ezra Klein: The crisis isn't too much polarization. It's too little democracy: "If Republicans couldn't win so much power while losing votes, the US wouldn't be in the current crisis."

Yanna Krupnikov/John Barry Ryan: The real divide in America is between political junkies and everyone else: "Most Americans view politics as two camps bickering endlessly and fruitlessly over unimportant issues." This is false, but offers one more dimension to consider: how much people know and care about politics.

There might be an advantage for politicians who focus less on the demands of partisans and more on tangible issues. Yes, hard partisans are more likely to reward ideological victories, but they are also a minority of the electorate.

Each day, partisan Democrats wonder whether that day's "outrage" will finally change how people feel about President Trump. Partisan Republicans wonder the same thing about Joe Biden. But most "regular" voters are not paying that much attention to the daily onslaught. It turns them off.

And the major scandals that do break through? Well, to many of them, that is "just politics."

The left-right divide is still primary, as it's based not just on ideology but on ethical concerns: leftists seek greater equality in power, rights, and wealth, while right-wingers aim to preserve and enhance privileges. That divide is heightened by asymmetrical information: the right seeks to obscure its moral lapses by spreading propaganda aimed at increasing division by targeting others, while the left tries to expose the right's lies and misinformation and appeal to the people's basic sense of fairness and justice. That's the real divide, even if most people don't recognize it as such. But there isn't a sharp divide between people who people who get this much about politics and those who don't. Rather, there is a gradual attenuation of information and interest, passing down through people who have nothing to react to but isolated echoes, which makes their votes (when they bother) increasingly arbitrary. I suspect that the real explanation for Trump's gains among Black and Latin voters this year was the success of the get-out-the-vote campaigns, leading people who don't normally follow politics to vote anyway. Those people, with so little quality information to go on, simply voted more randomly than more informed voters, and that worked to Trump's advantage. Still, the solution isn't to suppress the uninformed vote. It's to do a better job of informing them -- much better than the Democrats did this year, although Georgia looks like an exception, perhaps because the registration effort was more personal there.

Robert Markley: Kim Stanley Robinson is one of our greatest socialist novelists: I haven't found time for novels, but I know people who would agree.

David Masciotra: If Democrats can't stop acting like losers when they win, America is doomed.

Corey Robin: The professor and the politician: "For Max Weber, only the most heroic figures could generate meaning in the world. Does his theory hold up today?"

Nathan J Robinson:

  • Interview: Stephanie Kelton talks MMT and more. With Sparky Abraham also on the interview. Kelton has a book: The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy.

  • Why nationalism is a brain disease: "Matthew Yglesias' One Billion Americans argues that America needs more people because America must be the best. But why be the 'best'? And what is 'America'?" Robinson suggests an alternate subtitle, trading in The Case for Thinking Bigger for How the Assumption That America "Must" Remain on Top Produces Ludicrous Implications. Examples follow. I've read Yglesias regularly in Vox, and often started these Weekend Roundups with links to his pieces, but his book strikes me as a naked reach for the Thomas Friedman market. And while he no doubt knows a lot, I have no desire for that level of cliché crafting. Besides, I learned all I ever needed to know about nationalism from Camper Van Beethoven: "And if you weren't living here in America/you'd probably be somewhere else."

Jeff Sharlet: A heart is not a nation: "Confronting the age of hate in America." Review of Jean Guerrero: Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda, and Seyward Darby: Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: After/math. Since I've mentioned "soul of America" several times recently, let this bury it:

So Biden found his new Neil Kinnock after all, except historian Jon Meacham, unlike Kinnock, is a one-man cliché factory. Is there any phrase more hackneyed and less meaningful than "the soul of America"? How much did the Biden campaign pay Meacham to insert "soul of America" four or five times into every Biden speech? As stale platitudes go, the sell-by date on that one expired 150 years ago and even then Mark Twain would have had rich sport illustrating just how moronic it is.

Randy Stein/Alexander Swan/Michelle Sarraf: Conservatives value personal stories more than liberals do when evaluating scientific evidence. The link to this article had a more potent title: "How conservatives process COVID data."

Among conservatives especially, the idea that the pandemic itself is not a major threat can hold as long as there's personal evidence on offer that supports that view. President Donald Trump's recovery from COVID-19 and his assertion based on his own experience that the disease is not so bad would have bolstered this belief. Recommendations from researchers to wear masks can remain mere suggestions so long as the court of public opinion is still undecided.

Given all this, Trump's quick recovery from Covid-19 could have been the worst possible outcome. Recent history seems to bear that out.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34320 [34286] rated (+34), 223 [214] unrated (+9).

Spent most of the week in a fairly deep funk, not just due to the mixed bag of election results. Part of this is uncertainty as to where to go next with my writing. I'm tired of politics, and tired of music, and not too optimistic about anything else. I've long vowed that when I give up on the world, I'll go back to reading fiction. I haven't done that yet, but could go that way. Meanwhile, I've continued to make half-efforts at the usual projects. Yesterday's Weekend Roundup came to 811 lines, down 28% from the previous week, and down 45% from two weeks back. Indeed, it was the shortest since July 7, although early in the year most columns (23 total) were shorter.

As for music, I started off every day last week with vintage jazz albums. I noted the "breakfast music" in my Twitter feed, so I can report them here:

  • Ben Webster: Soulville
  • Don Pullen: Ode to Life
  • Coleman Hawkins: At Ease
  • Coleman Hawkins: Hollywood Stampede
  • Ben Webster: Cottontail
  • Budd Johnson: Let's Swing
  • Art Pepper/Duke Jordan: In Copenhagen 1981
  • Coleman Hawkins: The High and Mighty Hawk
  • Sonny Rollins: Plays G-Man
  • Johnny Hodges: Triple Play
  • Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do

These are all grade A/A+ records.

When I finally did return to my computer, I spent most of my time on my record lists: the tracking list, and the metacritic list. In particular, I caught up on some jazz sources: All About Jazz, Free Jazz Collective, Bandcamp (Dave Sumner), and Stereogum (Phil Freeman). That, plus time lingering on Aerophonic's Bandcamp site, led me to most of this week's records. Phil Overeem spotted most of the new compilations (at least, the better ones).

I've only gotten one question in weeks, so tried to answer it today.

Fell further behind on my demo queue, with more than the usual mail haul this week. I will get to them in due course, assuming some return to normalcy -- although I can tell you now that the Rich Halley CD is one of his best. Note that some albums don't officially release until 2021. That forced me to set up the scaffolding for tracking 2021 releases. Still lots of 2020 to process, but looking forward to January 20, even more so than in 2009. Thank God (and FDR) for the 20th Amendment.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Actress: Karma & Desire (2020, Ninja Tune): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Aluna: Renaissance (2020, Mad Decent): [r]: A-
  • Jon Armstrong Sextet: Reabsorb (2020, Orenda): [bc]: B+(**)
  • David Binney/Kenny Wollesen: Basu (2020, Mythology): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jamie Branch/Dave Repis/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Tollef Østvang: Tripel/Dubbel (2018 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Johanna Burnheart: Burnheart (2020, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cosmic Vibrations: Pathways & Passages (2018 [2020], Spiritmuse): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dej Loaf: Sell Sole II (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Demae: Life Works Out . . . Usually (2020, Touching Bass, EP): [r]: B
  • Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon: To Catch a Bird in a Net of Wind (2018 [2020], Trost): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Tashi Dorji: Stateless (2020, Drag City): [r]: B+(*)
  • Silke Eberhard/Dave Rempis/Kent Kessler/Mike Reed: Exposure (2017 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Michael Foster/Dave Rempis/Jason Roebke/Tyler Damon: The Eagle (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered 9: East/West (2019 [2020], Ill Considered): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Josh Johnson: Freedom Exercise (2020, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Les Sangliers: Miniscules (2018 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Kylie Minogue: Disco (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rachel Musson: Shifa: Live in Oslo (2019 [2020], 577): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rachel Musson: I Went This Way (2019 [2020], 577): [r]: B+(**)
  • Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes: Heritage of the Invisible II (2020, Internatioal Anthem): [r]: B+(**)
  • Optic Sink: Optic Sink (2020, Goner): [r]: B+(***)
  • Paris: Safe Space Invader (2020, Guerilla Funk): [r]: B+(***)
  • Theo Parrish: Wuddaji (2020, Sound Signature): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Rempis/Jim Baker/Ingebright Håker Flaten/Avreeayl Ra: Millenniums (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Dave Rempis/Terrie Ex/Tim Daisy: Sugar Shack (2013 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Steph Richards: Supersense (2020, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tiwa Savage: Celia (2020, Universal): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cat Toren's Human Kind: Scintillating Beauty (2020, New Focus): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Cool Cats Invasion (Highlife, Juju & Palm-Wine) (1950s-60s [2020], Moochin' About): [bc]: A-
  • Etta Jones: A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank (1972 [2020], Cellar Live): [r]: B-
  • Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknonwn (2014-20 [2020], Soul Jazz, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • La Locura de Machuca 1975-1980 (1975-80 [2020], Analog Africa): [r]: B+(**)
  • Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi (1985-1997) (1985-97 [2020], Bongo Joe): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Randal Despommier: Dio C'è (Outside In Music) [2021-02-06]
  • The End: Allt Är Intet (RareNoise): cdr [11-13]
  • Rich Halley/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio/Newman Taylor Baker: The Shape of Things (Pine Eagle)
  • Simone Kopmajer: Christmas (Lucky Mojo) [11-20]
  • Carla Marciano Quartet: Psychosis: Homage to Bernard Hermann (Challenge)
  • Todd Mosby: Aerial Views (MMG)
  • William Parker: Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World (Centering/AUM Fidelity, 10CD): 1-CD "advance listening demo" [2021-01-29]
  • Ivo Perelman Trio: Garden of Jewels (Tao Forms) [2021-01-22]
  • Dave Rempis/Jeff Parker/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Jeremy Cunningham: Stringers and Struts (Aerophonic) [12-04]
  • Sonny Rollins: Rollins in Holland (1967, Resonance, 2CD) [12-04]
  • J. Peter Schwalm: Neuzeit (RareNoise): cdr [11-27]
  • Chris White/Lara Driscoll: Firm Roots (self-released) [2021-01-21]

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Last week I collected a number of links meant to help readers understand how votes were likely to be counted over time from Tuesday evening into the next day(s). However, on Tuesday evening I found myself with little interest in checking, let alone following, the returns. Nor did my wife, who is much more the news junkie, somewhat more partisan, and definitely more full of dread. So we watched a movie instead (Ford vs. Ferrari, based on a story I followed closely when I was 15) and some stream TV I can't recall -- maybe the Australian series, Mystery Road? I googled election returns before going to bed: Biden was leading in popular vote, but it was closer than expected, with Trump still holding leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but Arizona called for Biden. I saw some Kansas returns, and knew that Barbara Bollier had lost her Senate bid. I spent the rest of the week never going deeper than Google's AP widget, which currently gives Biden a 290-214 lead, a margin of a bit over 4.5 million votes (with Biden at 50.7%), with three states still uncalled: Biden leads narrowly in Georgia, Trump leads a bit more in North Carolina, and much more in slow-returning Alaska.

I had hoped the Democrats would win more impressively, especially in the Senate races. (One piece which explains why is Joseph Fishkin: Please let it not be close: Who 2020 prez outcome probably won't be decided in court. But also Republican obstruction and rule has cost us 10 years of "opportunity costs" as Washington has ignored critical problems.) As it is, Democrats picked up two seats (Arizona and Colorado), lost one (Alabama), are trailing in North Carolina and Alaska, and face two difficult runoffs in Georgia, so it is very likely that the Republicans will control the Senate: leverage they could use not just to prevent Democrats from delivering on any of their legislative goals but totally sandbag the Biden administration: rejecting any or all nominations (judges, even cabinet members), even failing to pass a budget, appropriation bills, and resolutions allowing the government to extend its credit limit. They could, in short, shut the federal government down for the next two years. I wouldn't put any of that past them.

Democrats also lost a few seats in the House, but retain control there. I stil haven't looked at detailed returns for down ballot races. I haven't had much interest in reading people's opinions about why the votes broke as they did, or what it means for the future. Nonetheless, I do have a few opinions:

  1. I doubt that nominating a more progressive ticket would have helped the Democrats much. In particular, I doubt that Bernie Sanders would have inspired more young people to come out to vote Democratic than he would have lost among anti-left Democrats, independents, and anti-Trump Republicans. I also doubt that he would have done much worse (except perhaps at fundraising, which appears to be very overrated this year). And he might have made up some ground by articulating a sharper attack on Trump and/or by promising greater return value for votes.
  2. Biden, like Clinton in 2016, put a lot of effort into wooing Republican crossover votes, which undermined Democrats in down ballot races (especially in Maine, where Republicans won a Senate seat that polls had shown them losing all year; the failed campaign to defeat Susan Collins was the year's biggest disappointment). Biden should have made it clear that he needed a Democratic Congress not just to deliver on his promises but to govern at all.
  3. Biden put way too much emphasis on nebulous ideas like "soul of America" and "saving democracy," and not nearly enough on pocket book issues, like raising the minimum wage, encouraging unions, cutting drug and medical costs, keeping the economy going during pandemic. I'm reminded that in 1860, Republicans didn't campaign on generalities like limiting slavery and preserving the union. Their campaign pitch was direct: "Vote yourself a farm! Vote yourself a tariff!" Sure, both of those points worked to undermine the Slave Power, but they required nothing more from voters than a sense of self-interest. Trump and the Republicans were vulnerable of every front (except arguably taxes, but even there they clearly favored the rich). Democrats could honest have argued that the economy would be much worse without their insistence that the CARES act provide extra money for unemployment compensation and small businesses, and that the only reason it hasn't been extended has been Republican obstruction.
  4. Republicans retained a remarkable degree of unity up and down the ticket, possibly because their charges against Democrats were so outrageous and indiscriminate. Republican Senate candidates won everywhere Trump did (plus Maine), limiting Democratic gains to states Biden carried (less Maine). In many cases, Democratic Senate candidates polled better than Biden, only to lose out. Republicans are brutally efficient at getting their voters out, as they've been for quite some time. One corollary is that it doesn't seem to matter whether the Democratic candidate is left, liberal, moderate, or conservative.
  5. I think the main reason Trump exceeded his polls this time was that he moved some late-breaking voters on pandemic lockdowns. His handling of the pandemic was disastrous, but his ultimate embrace of the disease made him look tough and vigorous, and it aligned with the business interests of potential swing voters. Biden backed away from endorsing more lockdowns, but had a harder time convincing voters that his more cautious approach would be better for the economy. (Note that I'm not endorsing Trump's stance, which is stupid and callous, but it helps explain the small shift at the end.)
  6. Republican control of the Senate will certainly suit some of Biden's richest backers (e.g., Michael Bloomberg, whose money is one of the grossest blemishes on the 2020 elections). It will give him a good excuse not to nominate anyone from what Howard Dean memorably dubbed "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party." (Even if Democrats had won control, their efforts would be checked by the most conservative Democrats in the Senate -- much as Joe Lieberman and James Exon killed the ACA public option.)
  7. The Georgia runoff elections offer an opportunity for Democrats to get a redo, albeit on unfavorable terrain. The Democrats need to run as a team, and beg Georgians to give Biden a chance to work for America. Republicans are already arguing that winning those races is "America's last chance to stop socialism," so they're not going to lose gracefully.

Here's a related Steve M tweet:

Republicans have successfully nationalized every election by linking everything that scares center and right voters to every Democrat. Someone torches a police station? Implicitly the local Dem's fault! Dems never do this to the GOP, which is why Susan Collins won.


The Elections

Josh Barro: Smile, Democrats. Trump lost. You won.

Jerusalem Demsas: Why Georgia has runoff elections: Well, you know, racism, same as in other Southern states that use runoffs to a black person doesn't win a plurality against a divided mix of white candidates. It matters this year because both Senate elections will be going to runoffs. And most likely, the runoff election will draw fewer voters than the presidential, and that will help the Republicans sweep both seats, giving them a slim majority in the Senate, the the ability to sabotage any appointments or other initiatives Democrats push.

Liza Featherstone: There was actually a lot of good news for the left on election day.

Natalie Fertig/Mona Zhang: 1 in 3 Americans now lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal: "New Jersey, Arizona and Montana passed measures to legalize adult-use marijuana. South Dakota became the first state to authorize both medical and recreational sales at the same time." Mississippi voters approved medical marijuana. Every state that offered voters the chance to weigh in passed the measures.

Matt Ford: Election day was peaceful -- then Trump opened his mouth.

Murtaza Hussein: Nonwhite voters are not immune to the appeal of right-wing populism.

Ezra Klein:

  • How Joe Biden, the ultimate insider, defeated Donald Trump, the ultimate outsider: "The lessons of Biden's unusual campaign."

  • Trump is attempting a coup in plain sight. Not a coup. I doubt there are any institutions in America that could or would launch a coup, either to depose an inconvenient president, or in this case to preserve one who lost an election. It's not just that it's never been done before, or that there's little public support for taking contempt for American democracy to that level. Sure,the courts can (as they did in 2000) tilt the scales a bit. And if the electoral college split ended at 270-268 (as seemed possible before Biden won Pennsylvania), some sort of backroom deal (as happened in 1876 with Hayes-Tilden) might steal the election (although the Supreme Court ruled against "faithless electors" earlier this year). But neither of those disgraceful scenarios would really be a coup. What Trump is doing is everything he can to discredit an election that he clearly lost. He may not understand that he's really discredited himself in the bargain.

Michael Kruse:

  • Donald Trump confronts a new label: loser. By the way, Greg Magarian commented:

    This piece is utterly vicious simply because it's accurate and thorough. I disagree with people who think Trump was a singularly damaging president; in terms of the harm he did, he's just another disastrous conservative, the logical heir of Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes, all of whom slaughtered more people around the world. But Trump is certainly the worst person ever to hold the office, and I'm reveling in his debasement and humiliation. He deserves every drop in the tsunami of suffering that's headed his way.

  • How misfortune -- and stunning luck -- brought Joe Biden to the presidency.

Anita Kumar:

Peter Maass: As Trump is defeated, the Murdochs try to dodge backlash for Fox News. One thing I'll add is that Fox never needed to build a Republican majority to make money. Indeed, their interests favor keeping their audience extremely agitated, even if it's merely a sizable minority. Also, it kind of cramps their style having to defend a Republican establishment, certainly compared to how freewheeling they can get in attacking Democrats. That said, Trump was ideal for them: for one thing, he was living testament to their power and reach; for another, he never tried to be less crazy than they were. But Fox never needed Trump like Trump needed Fox. More on Trump and Fox:

Ian MacDougall: If Trump tries to sue his way to election victory, here's what happens.

Dylan Matthews: Joe Biden has won. Here's what comes next.

Laura McGann: Anderson Cooper described Trump as "an obese turtle on his back flailing in the hot sun".

David Nakamura: Trump's bid to discredit election raises fear that he will undermine a smooth transfer of power.

John Nichols:

  • The Biden-Harris victory brings 'an outpouring of joy, hope, renewed faith': "In cities nationwide, a spontaneous celebration erupts as Trup is defeated and voters usher in 'a new day for America.'" I must admit this took me by surprise, probably because I was bummed by how close the election was, and by the failure to rout Republicans down ballot, leaving Congress divided and ensuring that very little of the Biden-Harris platform stands a chance of getting implemented (at least for two years, but mid-term elections almost always go against the sitting president's party, and Democrats have blown mandates after both Clinton and Obama won with more impressive margins). On the other hand, had Trump actually won a second term after the most appalling record ever, in one of the worst years this country has ever suffered, it would have felt like the end of the world. Dodge that and yeah, joy makes sense. [By the way, Wichita also had a celebration, despite not contributing much to the win. We didn't attend, not least because Sedgwick County is regularly breaking records for new Covid-19 cases.] More celebrations:

  • Georgia voters can put an end to Mitch McConnell's grim reaping: By electing Democrats to two Senate seats subject to runoff. Yeah, but they probably won't. Georgia Republicans do everything they can to make voting difficult, and they're very efficient at winning low-turnout elections.

Ella Nilsen: House Democrats will keep their majority for two more years.

Alice Miranda Ollstein/Megan Cassella: 'A dreaded two years': Biden, allies gear up to face a GOP Senate.

Gabby Orr: Trump faces divided family and friends as calls out for a concession.

Lili Pike: Why so many young people showed up on Election Day.

Max Read: Time has never moved as slowly as it did this week.

Aaron Rupar:

Nate Silver: Biden won -- pretty convincingly in the end.

Still, this brings up one last point: This is the seventh election out of the past eight in which Democrats have won the popular vote for president. If American elections were contested on the basis of the popular vote, this race could probably have been called fairly early on Tuesday night, and we could all have gotten a lot more sleep the past few days. But don't let bleary eyes obscure Biden's accomplishment.

The one election the Republican won the most votes in was 2004, when GW Bush used his minority win in 2000 to start a war in Iraq, and was barely able to rally the nation behind its hapless Commander in Chief, and a thick veil of smoke and mirrors to hide how poorly the war was going. By 2008, Bush was even more unpopular than Trump this year. You can read 538's election blog here: Biden is projected to be the President-Elect. Here's how it all went down.

Emily Stewart: Trump spent years worrying about the stock market only to discover Wall Street doesn't care if he loses.

Asawin Suebsaeng/Sam Stein/William Bredderman: Trump orders advisers to 'go down fighting'.

Libby Watson: The futility of the Democrats' record-breaking war chest: "Liberals lined the campaigns of Senate hopefuls with mountainous piles of campaign loot, only to watch it all burn up on election night."

Matthew Yglesias:

  • Trump's gains with Hispanic voters should prompt some progressive rethinking.

  • 3 winners and 4 losers from a very long Election "Day": Winners: Joe Biden; Congressional Republicans ("Congressional Republicans escape from the Trump years with a tax cut, a stocked federal judiciary, an absolute stranglehold on the Supreme Court, and almost certainly a majority in the US Senate. They did lose the House in 2018 and didn't win it back in 2020, but Democrats' majority is now slim. And Republicans will dominate the redistricting process next year, setting themselves up nicely to make a big run at the majority in 2022."); Poll workers; Losers: Democratic small donors; Blue Texas, Martha McSally; The polls.

Li Zhou: Kamala Harris makes history as the first woman to become vice president. Lots of articles in this vein, as if it matters. At this stage, anyone who has a problem with her race and/or sex needs to get over it. What matters more (and most Republicans will emphasize this) is that she's significantly more progressive than Biden. Of course, that may be a consequence of her experiences given her background. Or she may just be smarter and more respectful and responsible than your average American. More on Harris:

After the Election

Dean Baker:

Jedediah Britton-Purdy: Donald Trump was a monster forged by the American free market.

Thomas Frank: Ding-dong, the jerk is gone. But read this before you sing the Hallelujah Chorus. Fine with me if you sing first, even dance a little. Plenty of time for disappointment later.

Biden can't take us back to the happy assumptions of the centrist era even if he wants to, because so many of its celebrated policy achievements lie in ruins. Not even Paul Krugman enthuses about Nafta-style trade agreements any longer. Bill Clinton's welfare reform initiative was in fact a capitulation to racist tropes and brought about an explosion in extreme poverty. The great prison crackdown of 1994 was another step in cementing the New Jim Crow. And the biggest shortcoming of Obama's Affordable Care Act -- leaving people's health insurance tied to their employer -- has become painfully obvious in this era of mass unemployment and mass infection.

But the biggest consequence of the Democrats' shabby experiment is one we have yet to reckon with: it has coincided with a period of ever more conservative governance. It turns out that when the party of the left abandons its populist traditions for high-minded white-collar rectitude, the road is cleared for a particularly poisonous species of rightwing demagoguery. It is no coincidence that, as Democrats pursued their professional-class "third way," Republicans became ever bolder in their preposterous claim to be a "workers' party" representing the aspirations of ordinary people.

Michael Grunwald: America votes to make politics boring again.

Fred Kaplan: Even without the Senate, Biden can get an awful lot done: "The executive branch is powerful and has only become more so in recent years."

First, there are executive orders. Obama signed 270 of them in the eight years of his presidency (that's almost three per month); Trump signed 176 in his one term (with, perhaps, more orders to come in his remaining two-and-a-half months). Biden could, and probably will, follow suit. (One thing he'll almost certainly do is repeal many of Trump's executive orders, just as Trump repealed many of Obama's.) Some of his predecessors' orders were challenged, and even overturned, in the courts, but not that many. Besides, presidents have other tools of unilateral power at their disposal: administrative orders, federal regulations, and national security decision directives, few of which can be challenged, many of which are deeply buried in bureaucratic documents, some of which are highly classified.

Second, presidents have enormous leeway in foreign policy (a privilege that, for better or worse, Congress and the courts rarely restrict). Biden will almost certainly reenter the Paris Agreement on climate change (which was signed within a United Nations framework, so the Senate would have no say), extend the New START nuclear arms treaty with the Russians (a provision allowed under the treaty itself, which the Senate ratified under Obama), and at least try to revive the nuclear arms deal with Iran (which was a multilateral agreement, not a treaty, and so never required Senate ratification). He won't be able to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty without Senate approval (he would face obstacles with many Democrats as well as Republicans). But he can enter into lots of negotiations with other countries that, in some way, involve trade and regional security.

Kevin M Kruse: Why a Biden administration shouldn't turn the page on the Trump era: "The Obama-Biden administration wanted to move forward rather than hold Wall Street bankers and CIA torturers accountable. If elected, Biden should follow FDR's playbook and expose his predecessor's corruption and mismanagement instead."

Matt McManus: How to avoid another Trump. "Trump was able to divert attention from the profound structural inequities of our time toward an agnostic politics where 'giving the middle finger' to liberals would serve as an ideological substitute for change."

Osita Nwanevu: Will the Democrats ever make sense of this week? "They're more likely to take the wrong lessons from Biden's win and the down-ballot losses."

Alex Pareene: What if Democrats' message just doesn't matter? "Florida voters backed a $15 minimum wage. So did Joe Biden -- and he lost the state. There are important lessons here for the party."

Yanis Varoufakis: Hoping for a return to normal after Trump? That's the last thing we need.

The Pandemic Is Still With Us

Katelyn Burns: The White House is dealing with another Covid-19 outbreak: "Five people have tested positive, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, as the US sees record daily case counts."

Umair Irfan/Julia Belluz/Brian Resnick: The US Covid-19 epidemic hit a deadly new milestone, and help isn't on the way: "More than 120,000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day."

A Odysseus Patrick: Australia has almost eliminated the coronavirus -- by putting faith in science.

Melody Schreiber: Trump is still the president, and the pandemic is getting worse.

David Waltner-Toews: The wisdom of pandemics: "Virus are active agents, existing within rich lifeworlds. A safe future depends on understanding this evolutionary story."

Still More on Donald Trump

Daniel Block: Donald Trup's return to TV would not be easy.

A Trump-controlled network would have an even greater chance of failure. It took Turner and Murdoch years to turn CNN and Fox into behemoths. Both did so when the cable television market was larger and less consolidated than it is today. Conservative media is particularly tricky. The target demographic -- middle-aged-to-elderly white men -- is becoming a smaller proportion of the U.S. They already have Fox.

And Trump is not a talented businessman. His companies have declared bankruptcy six times. His properties bleed cash. And his experience as chief executive of the federal government isn't exactly inspiring. The United States has had one of the worst responses to the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to Trump's dithering and denial. He could delegate the network's management to better hands, but, once again, it's hard to see him not micromanaging.

"Do you really want to help me build a channel for Donald Trump that targets old white guys?" the senior executive said. "I don't think so."

That doesn't mean networks or investors won't work with Trump. In fact, they likely will. Perhaps Fox will give him an enormous contract to call in as a commentator, buying him off without the risks of having to host a Trump show. (Whether Trump, with his massive ego, would settle for anything less than a dedicated prime-time audience is unclear.) Maybe Sinclair will decide partnering with Trump is worth the risk. Someone, somewhere, will pay him for his brand. Indeed, even the most spectacular possible failure -- creating a new channel, only to have it sputter -- could still be a financial win. Al Gore's Current TV never really caught on with viewers. Yet when he sold it to Al Jazeera, he made out with $100 million.

Katelyn Burns: The Trump legal team's failed Four Seasons press conference, explained. More:

Nancy Cook: Trump prepares to launch a second term early, even without winning: "He ay fire department heads like the FBI's Chris Wray and Pentagon chief Mark Esper. He could sign base-pleasing executive orders. He might resume travel."

Emily Dreyfuss: Trump's tweeting isn't crazy. It's strategic, typos and all. I'd rather just think of him as an illiterate moron, but could that just be his personal touch added to devious coaching?

Amy Gulick: The majestic Alaskan rain forest in Trump's crosshairs: Tongass National Forest.

The Intercept: Part Seven: Climate change: "Trump has stacked his anti-science administration with corporate polluters, gutted environmental regulations, and opened protected land for extraction." Most recent installment in a series, American Mythology. Previous parts:

Sarah Jones: Say good-bye to Trump's lesser ghouls: The roll call profiled here: Seema Verma (as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "approved drastic cuts to Medicaid that left thousands of needy Americans without health care"); Sonny Perdue (Secretary of Agriculture, issued rules to allow states to cut SNAP); Eugene Scalia (Secretary of Labor, name no coincidence, undermined OSHA among other things); Gina Haspel (CIA Director, torture supervisor); Julia Hahn (White House speechwriter, with white nationalist credentials to rival the more infamous Stephen Miller); Robert Wilkie (VA head, union buster, Confederate monument fetishist); Paula White (White House "spiritual adviser"); Alyssa Farah (White House communications director); Russ Vought (Director of Office of Budget and Management, "task is to reshape the executive branch according to Trump's whims"); William Perry Pendley (acting director Bureau of Land Management).

Nick Pinto: Across the US, Trump used ICE to crack down on immigration activists. This is part of a larger series on The war on immigrants.

Jon Schwarz: During the Trump Era, everyone and everything in America failed: "The possibilities in front of us are real, but we should not deceive ourselves about what we learned during the Time of Trump." Schwarz doesn't limit his list of failures to Trump and the Republicans; also indicted are: Biden, Democrats, and The Corporate Media. Nonetheless, Trump leads:

Before Trump, it seemed obvious that fascists were filled with vigor, always available for a mass torch-lit rally at midnight. Trump clearly has the instincts of a fascist: a lust for power, cruelty toward out-groups, and romanticization of a past that never existed. But he also can't execute any plan that requires more than five seconds of effort. Are you a fascist if you vaguely want to be Supreme Leader, but that seems like a ton of work, and your top priority is getting through all the hours of "Fox & Friends" on your DVR? . . .

It's true the Trump administration has managed to implement policies that blighted the lives of many, many people. But this has been on issues where Trump himself just had to sign papers put in front of him by the small number of his underlings who are minimally competent.

All that said, there is one area where Trump did not fail. Everyone has a mental map of the world inside their head. Mentally healthy people adjust their interior map when they see it doesn't match reality. Mentally unhealthy people try to force reality to change to match what's inside them. Trump, who is pullulating with hate and fear, has successfully devoted himself to multiplying the amount of hate and fear in the world outside of his head.

The most terrifying part of the Trump presidency has not been Trump himself, but the slavish support other GOP politicians have given his every action. We now know for sure that there's nothing a Republican president can do that's so grotesque that the rest of the party won't fall in line behind it.

Supreme Court and Other Injustices

Ian Millhiser:

Benjamin Weiser/Michael S Schmidt/William K Rashbaum: Steve Bannon loses lawyer after suggesting beheading of Fauci: "Mr Bannon, the former adviser to President Trump, said the heads of the FBI director and Dr Anthony Fauci should be put on pikes, leading Twitter to ban one of his accounts."

Around the World

Laura Gottesdiener: The children of Fallujah: The medical mystery at the heart of the Iraq War: "Since the 2003 invasion, doctors in Fallujah have been reporting a sharp rise in birth defects among the city's children -- and to this day, no one knows why."

Murtaza Hussain: Trump, the war president, leaves a trail of civilians dead in Yemen: "A new report sheds light on Donald Trump's bloody continuation -- and intensification -- of the brutality of US foreign policy."

Marissa J Lang: Mexico is poised to legalize marijuana, but advocates don't like the details.

Sharon Lerner: US military responsible for widespread PFAS pollution in Japan: "A new book by Jon Mitchell exposes 'countless' releases of PFAS chemicals by the US military in Japan." Interview with Mitchell, whose book is Poisoning the Pacific: The US Military's Dumping of Plutonium, Chemical Weapons, and Agent Orange.

Timothy McLaughlin: America still thinks it's the election police: "After the 2020 election, who would bother to listen to the US about how to run a vote?"

Other Matters

Harry Browne: Robert Fisk was a reporter who brought the wars home and shaped the thinking of a generation. Fisk died last week. His books Pity the Nation (on civil war in Lebanon, although it also includes important reporting on Syria) and The Great War for Civilisation (on Bush's "War on Terror") were major, but mostly we depended on him for day-to-day journalism.

Matthew Cappuci/Andrew Freedman: Tropical Storm Eta nears Florida with flood threat, hurricane warnings: "The storm's swipe at Florida is part of the second incarnation of Eta, which killed dozens in Central America last week after striking Nicaragua on Tuesday as a devastating Category 4 storm."

David Harvey: Socialists must be the champions of freedom.

Anatol Lieven: US strategists lost empathy, along with their wars.

Paul R Pillar: The global nuclear bargain. Eighty-four nations have signed, and fifty have now ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. You may recall that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) back in 1970 promised that if nations agreed not to develop nuclear weapons, the states that previously had them would disarm. The US and others have failed to do so, hence the need for a new treaty.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: The fog of bores.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34286 [34260] rated (+26), 214 [214] unrated (-0).

Went to bed last night with chills. Finally found a thermometer after I got up, and still had a mild fever (100.7). Not much else in the way of symptoms. Seems unlikely to me that it is covid, but I expect to take it easy today, and monitor the situation. Will knock this out fast, then maybe read or watch some TV.

Week was short, as far as rating new records, not starting until I locked down the previous week on Thursday. Still, ran through a lot of records over the weekened. Phil Freeman's Stereogum column helped, as did Dave Sumner's at Bandcamp, and Tim Niland's blog. (Sorry I don't feel like tracking down the links.)

Made a mistake in yesterday's Weekend Roundup: It should be Laura Lombard, as the Democrat running for the House 4th Congressional District in Kansas (not "Carol"). When editing that, I resisted the temptation to add "creepy" to her opponent Ron Estes' name, although that's the adjective that always comes to mind.

Robert Christgau tweeted about my Weekend Roundup:

My friend and webmaster Tom Hull reads so much that I often have trouble getting through the exceptionally clear and swift summaries he posts weekly. This pre-election edition, however, I'm printing out. (Check out "Recent Reading" on the left.)

Also in my Twitter feed was this from Admiral Mike Franken:

Multiple Air Force One flights per day to campaign stops, each preceded by multiple C-17 advance party trips to drop off hard cars, personnel, comm packages. The American taxpayer is paying for Trump's campaign, and after he is gone, the super-spreader medical costs, as well.

A reasonable lesson to draw from this is that we should never allow sitting presidents to run for second terms. Of course, like so many things, this was a less obvious abuse of power before Trump.

Also in the Twitter feed is one from Trump ("The Depraved Swamp have been trying to stop me - because they know I don't answer to THEM - I answer only to YOU"). I suppose it's possible that by "swamp" Trump meant something other than the obvious point about how lobbyists have so much influence in Washington, but he never corrected the misperception. He simply made a mockery of it. As Public Citizen notes in quoting Trump's tweet:

  • A coal lobbyist runs the EPA
  • An oil lobbyist runs the DOI
  • A pharma exec runs HHS
  • A Raytheon lobbyist runs DoD
  • A Verizon lawyer runs FCC
  • A banking exec runs Treasury
  • A shipping heiress runs DOT
  • A private equity kingpin runs Commerce
  • An unqualified billionaire runs DoED

Front page headline in the Wichita Eagle today: Guns and ammo fly off the shelves in Wichita. Page two headline: Wichita police: Suicide attempts involving guns up 150% in 2020. My first thought was that this sounds like a self-correcting problem, but the scales don't work out. I understand why people on both sides are terrified by the prospect of losing this election -- not that I think Trump supporters have anything serious to worry about -- but it escapes me how anyone could think the solution is stockpiling guns.

If you haven't already voted, do so tomorrow. It is, quite literally, the least you can do. Next week we'll unpack some of the results, but quite frankly, I'm looking forward to not having to deal with so much insanity on a weekly basis.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Ainon: Drought (2020, We Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Autechre: Sign (2020, Warp): [r]: B
  • Autechre: Plus (2020, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ballrogg: Rolling Ball (2020, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tim Berne's Snakeoil: The Deceptive 4 (2009-17 [2020], Intakt, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Call Super: Every Mouth Teeth Missing (2020, Incienso): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chrome Hill: This Is Chrome Hill (2020, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mino Cinelu/Nils Petter Molvaer: SulaMadiana (2020, Modern): [r]: A-
  • Joachim Cooder: Over That Road I'm Bound (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B
  • Dagny: Strangers/Lovers (2020, Little Daggers, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fat Tony: Exotica (2020, Carpark): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ariana Grande: Positions (2020, Republic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Home Counties: Redevelopment (2020, Alcopop!, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Keith Jarrett: Budapest Concert (2016 [2020], ECM, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Junk Magic: Compass Confusion (2020, Pyroclastic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Takuya Kuroda: Fly Moon Die Soon (2020, First Word): [r]: B+(***)
  • Adrianne Lenker: Songs (2020, 4AD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Malin Pettersen: Wildhorse (2020, Die With Your Boots On): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mikkel Ploug: Balcony Lullabies (2020, Stunt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Serengeti: With Greg From Deerhoof (2020, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sun Ra Arkestra: Swirling (2018 [2020], Strut): [bc]: A-
  • Richard Thompson: Bloody Noses (2020, Beeswing, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jeff Tweedy: Love Is the King (2020, dBpm): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ben Wendel: High Heart (2020, Edition): [r]: B
  • Miki Yamanaka: Human Dust Suite (2020, Outside In Music): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Rendition Was In) (2001-17 [2020], Daptone): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Unity: Live at Storyville, New York, October 1977 (1977 [2020], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kevin Sun: (Un)seaworthy (Endectomorph Music) [11-27]

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Blog link.

Table of contents:

I opened the Wichita Eagle this morning to see an alarming op-ed, titled "This presidential election is a battle between good and evil." I didn't instantly disagree, but figured I needed to look at the fine print to see whether it favored good or evil, and turns out it sided with evil. The author was Brian McNicoll, a writer for the Heritage Foundation. This kind of demonization never does anyone any good -- even when opposing Donald Trump, who is guilty of so many offenses against humanity one can excuse the shorthand. The thing is, it's always possible to construct a valid critique of Trump on issues, without ever getting into ethical or psychological matters (which are pretty offensive, too). McNicoll's screed is evenly divided between lies he thinks favor Trump and lies he thinks damn Biden. One could go through these point-by-point, but the deeper problem is the absolutist Manichaean worldview. One may disagree over corporate tax rates, but you're only deluding yourself when you claim that some levels are good and others evil. Worse, you're vowing to kill your opponents, and inviting them to kill you, just so you can feel righteous.

The weird thing is that while Trump is right to worry about losing, his followers aren't really risking much. Most popular Democratic reforms will actually help all but the very richest Americans, and if the track record of Biden's wing of the party holds up, the rich will also do better. Guns seem to be a concern, but the only things Democrats are seriously pushing there are background checks and/or some kind of limit on weapons of mass destruction. Most gun owners will barely be inconvenienced. Lately I've known several people describe abortion as "evil" in tones liberals almost never apply to guns. Clearly, they want to strip hard-earned rights away from women, and be able to dictate a large chunk of their lives. What makes them think they should even have that right baffles me, but it's become a litmus test for the whole conservative movement.

I had a second screed I wanted to write a bit about, but don't have time. It starts:

If you are a liberal who can't stand Trump, and cannot possibly fathom why anyone would ever vote for him, let me fill you in.

It's not that we love Donald Trump so much. It's that we can't stand you.

And we will do whatever it takes -- even if that means electing a rude, obnoxious, unpredictable, narcissist (your words not ours) to the office of President of the United States -- because the thing we find more dangerous to this nation than Donald Trump is YOU.

I picked this up from a Facebook "friend" (actually, a relative), and ascribe much of it to the heat of the moment, but I feel personally threatened by this vitriol. Again, nearly all of the charges are lies, wrapped up with the credulous anger of someone who feels he is being victimized by the unseen but much imagined forces of the left.

I think it should be clear by now that I don't hate Trump supporters. Indeed, I know a fair number of them, and love some very much. I simply think they are mistaken, sometimes even delusional, and I believe that their mistakes and delusions can hurt people (including themselves). As for Trump himself, I think that someone who started out with all of his advantages, who ultimately accumulated so much power, should be held responsible for his actions.

Here's one of my rare political tweets:

I try to avoid TV ads, but some get through. In KS Senate race, Bollier's ads make me wonder why bother electing a stealth Republican? On the other hand, Marshall's ads make me want to vote for her. Sure, I know they're all outrageous lies, but he needs to pay for them.

One last note: Robert Fisk, veteran British foreign correspondent, dies aged 74. Fisk wrote a very important book on the 1975-90 Lebanese Civil War, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon. He covered the Middle East for many years, writing in The Independent, and has several more notable essay collections. His work immensely helped many of us to anticipate the disasters that unfolded with GW Bush's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the later interventions in Libya and Syria.


Endorsements

If you care about the community you live in, the nation, and/or the world, Vote for Biden-Harris. There is no other sane choice, and it's silly to pretend otherwise. If you're in Kansas, vote for Barbara Bollier for Senate, because her brand of Republicanism is far less obnoxious than Roger Marshall's, and she'll vote to organize the Senate in a way where Democrats actually have a chance of doing something good (or less awful). If you're in or near Wichita, vote for Laura Lombard over Ron Estes. If you're in our neighborhood, vote for Mary Ware and John Carmichael for the state legislature. And especially vote for James Thompson for the judge slot he started a late campaign for. If in doubt, vote for whoever's running as a Democrat. Not all Republicans are corrupt, sociopathic miscreants, but a lot of them are, and they're running on a ticket headed by one.

Electing Democrats won't solve our problems. They will be as sympathetic to lobbyists as Republicans are, but they'll understand better the need to protect their voters' interests as well, to find some balance which is the soul of moderation.

I didn't look for endorsement links this week (although I found one in an open tab). You can see some last week. I also wrote something about this in last week's Music Week.

The Economist: Why it has to be Biden.

Campaigns and Elections

Election day is Tuesday. Actually, most Americans have already voted -- 92 million, according to an article below -- so the real import of the day is that's when we start moving from polling to actual vote counts. As noted below, the polls favor Biden-Harris, not only to get more votes than Trump-Pence but to get enough more to overcome the systemic bias built into the electoral college (which in 2016 allowed Trump to win while receiving 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton). I tend to avoid spending a lot of time on polling, but this time I've picked out a number of links that explain how polling works, how it tends to go wrong, and what the risks are. The big open question this time is whether Republican efforts to suppress the vote and/or to reject votes through lawsuits slant the returns significantly. There is, also, a chance that someone might be able to hack the actual returns -- a far more serious problem than Russian efforts to spread misinformation in 2016. (After all, Republicans were doing a huge amount of that anyway.)

I think it's possible to say that any major discrepancies will be discovered and corrected if given time and attention. Most likely, a major thrust of Republican post-election torts will be (as Trump has already abundantly advertised) directed to shutting the process down as early as possible. While a truly close election could take a week or two to sort out, a Biden landslide could be clear within a day or two. At this point, a Trump landslide seems inconceivable, and would certainly be very suspicious.


Kate Aronoff: Are you fracking kidding me, Trump? "The president's latest electoral Hail Mary: He's considering ordering federal agencies to produce a report on fracking that will emerge months after the election and which no one will read." I can't help but find this amusing. After eight years of "oil man" Bush driving gasoline prices through the roof (only to see them collapse in his Great Recession), it was the Obama-Biden administration that promoted fracking, leading to a surge in oil production, achieving the "holy grail" of American energy independence that had been part of Republican platforms since Reagan but had always proved elusive. In a saner world, Biden would have to acknowledge fracking as a blemish on his record, but with Trump embracing it so wholeheartedly, he's let his opponent off the hook.

Alexander Burns: Trump's closing argument on virus clashes with science, and voters' lives: "The president has continued to downplay the severity of the coronavirus and declare before largely maskless crowds that it is vanishing. The surge in new cases across the country says: Not so."

Jonathan Chait:

  • Trump let the right make him the Herbert Hoover of the coronavirus: "The virus was a chance for Trump to revive his presidency. He blew it by listening to conservatives." He always listens to conservatives. Let's face it, he's not the kind of thinker who actually thinks on his own.

    Hoover, like Trump, was elected on the basis of his image as a can-do businessman (which in Hoover's case, unlike Trump's, was genuine). Ultimately, Hoover's presidency collapsed in the face of a depression whose severity and duration he refused to acknowledge. . . .

    From the outset of the crisis, numerous conservative intellectuals waved off the pandemic as overblown. Various oddball home-brew epidemiological theories circulated to justify this impulse. The esteemed right-wing law professor Richard Epstein estimated no more than 500 Americans would die, a figure embraced by administration officials. After fitful gestures toward following the advice of his public-health officials, Trump eventually sidelined them and put his pandemic response in the hands of Scott Atlas, another conservative movement apparatchik with no expertise in epidemiology. It is a grim historic joke that Atlas, like Epstein, is a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.

  • The stench of Trump's racism will cling to his enables forever.

  • Tucker Carlson reports he lost only copy of documents that nail Biden.

  • Trump tells the Supreme Court it's on his election team.

Sean Collins: Black voter turnout was down in 2016. This time looks to be different.

Chas Danner: Trump reportedly plans to declare premature victory: Live election updates. This file gets updated regularly, so the title and lead piece may change, but the section title is a bit more provisional: "Trump reportedly plans to declare victory on if he's ahead on Election Night." As I've noted below, there isn't a very big window for claiming victory prematurely, unless he actually is winning. The article notes, "For this to happen, his allies expect he would need to either win or have commanding leads in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, Arizona, and Georgia." The fact is, he could win all of those states and still lose the election: Pennsylvania is the median state, and every state listed is on the list of states Trump is more likely to carry than Pennsylvania (current polls show him losing FL, NC, AZ, and GA, and barely ahead in IA, TX, and OH). That this story has any credibility at all is because we're so used to Trump claiming ridiculous bullshit, and certain segments of the media echoing him in awestruck wonder. [PS: Possibly in response to the Axios report this is based on: Trump denies he'll declare victory on election night, but threatens that his lawyers are ready to challenge results.]

Susan B Glasser: Denialism, dishonesty, deflection: The final days of the Trump campaign have it all. "The President is ending his reélection bid with scandals that call into question the legitimacy of next week's vote." I have a certain amount of respect for Trump's insistence that he still has a chance despite the polls, but he's going about it all wrong, and that exposes his bad faith, and considerably worse. If he could win, you'd expect him to do everything possible to convince even his opponents that the results are fair and true. But by harping on how rigged the election is, he's not only leading his followers to think that his loss would be illegitimate, he's planting the seed in his opponents' minds that he himself could only win by crooked means. He is, in short, making America's near future ungovernable for either party. He may not realize this, but win or lose he's already managed to spoil the election, to delegitimize American democracy. I don't know whether he's proud of this, or just that fucking stupid. Emphasis added below:

I have a different fear this time: What if the polls are right -- and Trump still wins? The election may be over, but the counting is not. His path to victory through the Electoral College may rest with only a few states where Election Night results are ambiguous enough that Trump could question them and, instead, pursue a win via friendly Republican state legislatures and the pro-Trump Supreme Court. Trump has already spent months laying the groundwork for this, preëmptively attacking the "rigged" election, baselessly suggesting widespread voter fraud in the use of mail-in ballots, and authorizing lawsuits to push for as many restrictive conditions on voting as possible in key states. An American President attacking American democracy in advance of an election has simply never been seen before. But he continues to do it every day, in the final run-up to November 3rd. Whatever the election's outcome, this is already one of the greatest political scandals of our time, and a lasting blot on Trump's record.

James Hamblin: Trump has gone from downplaying the pandemic to outright Covid denial.

Even casual observers of President Donald Trump's mode of thinking long ago abandoned hope that he might embrace analytic reasoning (sometimes referred to simply as "science"). But if there were ever a possibility that he might at least come to terms with the power of the coronavirus, it would have been when it sent him to the hospital. Barely a month ago, recall, we had cause to speculate that the president might soon be dead. Although details of Trump's illness remain concealed -- including abnormalities in his chest CT scan and the date that he first tested positive for the virus -- the known facts of his case indicate that it was not mild. He received supplemental oxygen to keep his red blood cells saturated, and he was prescribed dexamethasone, which is recommended only in serious cases.

Ben Jacobs: Where the Trump revolution started and ended: "Republicans thought they had realigned the coutry four years ago. Iowa isn't going along."

Dan Kaufman: Will Trump's broken promises to working-class voters cost him the election?

Jen Kirby/Rani Molla: 9 questions about 2020's record-breaking early vote, answered. "More than 84 million Americans have voted so far in 2020."

Charlotte Klein: Trump rallies leave trail of COVID spikes in their wake. Dubbing them his "superspreader tour" is no joke. For more details: Trump rallies may be responsible for an estimated 700 Covid-19 deaths.

Ezra Klein: Nate Silver on why 2020 isn't 2016. Interview with the 538 founder and guru. Pieces by Silver and 538:

  • Nate Silver: Trump can still win, but the polls would have to be off by way more than in 2016.

  • Nathaniel Rakich: Both candidates might fall short of 270 electoral votes on election night. But how close might they get? This gives you an hour-by-hour breakdown of when significant votes will be reported. For instance, at 7 EST six states should start reporting: Vermont, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, and Kentucky. Georgia is the bellweather in that group: Biden is slightly favored, but could lose it and still win the election; but if Trump loses Georgia, he's almost certainly toast. One thing I don't like about this presentation is that they're giving you "chance of winning" instead of vote margins (something you can actually track; Kentucky, for instance, is listed as 99% Trump, but the actual vote forecast is Trump +18.2; Indiana is Trump +9.9; South Carolina Trump +8.2; if those races are closer, Biden is likely to be doing better elsewhere; if they are bigger blowouts than expected, Trump is likely to do better elsewhere). The other caveat here is that while networks may call states based on polling as soon as the polls close, the closer races (like Georgia) will take some time to report, and may have big internal divisions (especially in Georgia), so it really matters where the early votes are reported from. At 7:30, you start to get Ohio, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Trump is likely to have an electoral vote lead at that point (33-16), but that will probably flip after 8:00, when DC, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Maine, and New Hampshire start to report -- along with probable Trump wins in Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, and Oklahoma.

  • Geoffrey Skelley: The battleground states where we've seen some movement in the polls.

Jill Lepore: The trouble with election projections. By an historian, so she mentions premature claims like Charles Evans Hughes in 1916, but somehow missed Thomas Dewey in 1948.

Robert Mackey: Trump's pathetic attempt to get Netanyahu to attack Biden falls flat. Well, aside from getting Netanyahu's richest American donor to cough up even more money.

Dylan Matthews/Kay Steiger: How the press calls elections, explained.

Tom McCarthy: 'Red mirage': The 'insidious' scenario if Trump declares an early victory. There are various "mirage" scenarios, both "red" and "blue," but they're all pretty tenuous. The fear is that if there is any point in the evening when Trump appears to be ahead, he will claim victory and his followers will believe him. But no one else will, until we see clear data that lines up with or exceeds expectations (for Biden) or that consistently overturns them (or Trump).

Dana Milbank: Trump just made Biden's closing argument against him.

We needn't look back over the past four years -- joblessness, debt, racial strife and international disdain -- to see why Trump is unfit. We need only look back at the past two weeks.

  • He returned to calling immigrants "rapists" and "murderers" and referred to "Barack Hussein Obama."
  • He mockingly mispronounced Kamala Harris's name and used the racist trope of labeling the African American Democratic vice-presidential nominee "angry."
  • His senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, proposed that Black Americans don't "want to be successful."
  • Trump's campaign, after a rally in frigid Omaha, stranded supporters for hours, landing some in the hospital.
  • Judge-appointed lawyers said they couldn't find the parents of 545 migrant children the Trump administration separated from their parents.
  • Trump embraced a "lock her up" chant directed at the Michigan governor, target of a kidnapping plot.
  • Covid-19 relief talks collapsed after the Senate Republican leader told the White House not to make a deal.
  • A federal judge struck down Trump's plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed Americans.
  • Stocks plunged, suffering their worst week and month since March as pandemic fears outweighed strong third-quarter growth.
  • Trump opened 9.3 million pristine acres of rainforest in Alaska to logging and development.
  • A Trump political appointee resigned in protest because a new presidential order destroys the integrity of the civil service.
  • Trump promoted dubious allegations against Biden that news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, said could not be corroborated by the evidence.
  • Trump told women in Michigan that "we're getting your husbands back to work."
  • And he tried, unsuccessfully, to get Israel's prime minister to join him in ridiculing "Sleepy Joe."

Meanwhile, news broke that:

  • Trump's administration ousted the top scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after he reminded Trump appointees not to manipulate scientific findings.
  • The U.S. Postal Service's on-time delivery dropped below 60 percent in swing states after a Trump ally sabotaged operations.
  • Trump's businesses have received at least $8.1 million from taxpayers and supporters since he took office.
  • Creditors forgave some $270 million of his unpaid debts related to a Chicago building project a decade ago.

But leading the latest parade of horribles has been pandemic ineptitude: the White House issuing a report taking credit for "ending the covid-19 pandemic," Trump's claiming we're "rounding the turn" even as his chief of staff says "we are not going to control the pandemic," and Vice President Pence campaigning despite an outbreak among his staff.

David R Montgomery/Maggie Haberman: Vehicles flying Trump flags try to force a Biden-Harris campaign bus off a highway in Texas. Sumner Concepcion later wrote about this story:

While making a surprise campaign stop in Philadelphia during a rally supporting the re-election of Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Biden ripped into Trump for refusing to condemn his supporters who swarmed a Biden campaign bus on the highway as it passed through San Antonio. The President retweeted a video of the episode with a giddy "I LOVE TEXAS!"

Biden also criticized Trump supporters who brought the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey to a standstill earlier today.

"We have never had anything like this -- at least, we've never had a president that thinks it is a good thing," Biden said.

By the way, David Frum's interpretation of this Trump tweet was: "President Trump endorses attempted vehicular homicide." Also: After Trump supporters surround a Biden bus in Texas, the FBI opens an investigation.

David Nakamura/Paul Sonne: Trailing in the polls, Trump enlists his administration and co-opts the government to bolster his reelection.

Nicole Narea: More people have already voted in Texas than did in 2016 overall: "Texas has historically had among the lowest levels of voter turnout nationwide." Chart shows four more states where early votes as a share of 2016 totals is over 80%: Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona. Chart is limited to "swing states," where Pennsylvania is low at 34.3%, Minnesota 40.0%, Ohio 46.3%, Michigan 50.3%, Wisconsin 58.4%.

New York Times Editorial Board: Why are Republicans so afraid of voters? "There is no 'both sides do it' when it comes to intentionally keeping Ameicans away from the polls."

Tina Nguyen: Election day becomes doomsday scenario for militia groups.

Cameron Peters:

Andrew Prokop:

Aaron Rupar:

David Siders/Zach Montellaro: Trump confronts his 50 percent problem: "The president's inability to capture a majority of support sheds light on his extraordinary efforts to suppress the vote."

Jamil Smith: How Donald Trump talks about black people.

Peter Stone: Billionaire casino boss Sheldon Adelson splashes the cash in bid to help Trump: "The magnate, 87, is expected to have spent $250m this election cycle to support conservative causes, fundraisers say."

Matthew Yglesias:

  • Nepotism and the 2020 election, explained: "Joe Biden isn't the only candidate with family in question in this campaign." That he even mentions Biden in this regard, let alone dedicating a section to "Hunter Biden makes a living off the family name," is an example of false equivalence. Nepotism is bad for a lot of reasons, and it seems like there's been a lot more of it in recent years -- e.g., the Bushes and Clintons, but the list of lesser figures is pretty long. The root is increasing inequality, and the result is a return to aristocracy. This limits the opportunities to those not born with the advantage of connections, while filling high positions with people far removed from everyday life.

  • Biden has a big lead in the polls, but can we trust them? His answer: "You can mostly rely on the polls, but that doesn't mean Trump can't win." What I would say is that polls do a pretty good job of reflecting what people think at the moment, but they carry more uncertainty than readily meets the eye. Also they can be scammed. Also, it's hard to model some aspects of voting, like actual turnout (how does that compare to "likely voters"). Also, both sides worry about hacking, mostly because Trump has warned us, but also because Trump and his allies are just the sort who have no scruples about cheating democracy.

  • How the polls heading into the last weekend of the election.

  • The latest batch of swing state polls shows a healthy Biden lead.

  • Trump's plan to win by invalidating votes, explained: "First, make it illegal to count votes quickly. Second, pain the slow count as suspicious."

  • Trump's closing argument is against a fake Joe Biden: "He desperately wants to run against 'the radical left' instead." It's hard to see how anyone could find his claims credible, but Republicans all over say the same things about all Democrats -- possibly because were they to talk about issues they may find most voters siding with "the radical left." This inevitable smear tactic convinced many Democrats to pick an obvious non-radical like Biden over someone like Bernie Sanders who really did promise change, but I doubt the slanders could be any worse or more credible against Sanders.

  • The "shy Trump voters" debate, explained. This offers a pretty fair explanation of how polling works these days, and what can go wrong with it. Much less on "shy Trump voters," possibly because the concept is so laughable.

Covid-19

The Covid Tracking Project: The pandemic is in uncharted territory: "The fall surge is rewriting the coronavirus record books across America. And the numbers are still climbing."

Timothy Bella: Donald Trump Jr. said Covid-19 deaths are at 'almost nothing.' The virus killed more than 1,000 Americans the same day. Also on DJTJ:

Vincent Bevins: How the pandemic dealt a blow to Europe's far right: "Covid-19 led to setbacks for many far-right parties across Europe as issues like immigration receded and voters sought out competent leadership."

Josh Dawsey/Yasmeen Abutaleb: 'A whole lot of hurt': Fauci warns of covid-19 surge, offers blunt assessment of Trump's response.

Stephen Duckett/Tom Crowley: Finally at zero new cases, Victoria, Australia, is on top of the world after unprecedented lockdown effort.

Charlotte Klein: Second coronavirus wave propels European countries into lockdown 2.0.

German Lopez: Why North and South Dakota are suffering the worst Covid-19 epidemics in the US. Subheds: The Dakotas resisted basic policies to fight Covid-19; The public, fueled by Trump, didn't follow proper precautions; North and South Dakota now have a serious and growing crisis."

Cameron Peters: As Trump downplays Covid-19, the US sets a world record for cases.

Still More on Donald Trump

David Atkins: Trump plans a series of Saturday night massacres if he wins. Names reportedly on the chopping block: Mark Esper, Gina Haspel, Christopher Wray. I don't care for any of them, but it is true that Trump's minions have become notably more servile and sycophantic since his first batch, and that's made them more willing to engage in dubious activities (e.g., William Barr, Mike Pompeo). A second term will be a giant boost to his ego.

Peter Baker: Dishonesty has defined the Trump presidency. The consequences could be lasting. "Whether President Trump wins or loses on Nov. 3, the very concept of public trust in an established set of facts necessary for the operation of a democratic society has been eroded." Bad, but if he wins, the consequences will be so much worse. When he tested positive for Covid, some pundits wondered whether his illness might make him a bit more humble and respectful of reality, but when he recovered, he only became more arrogant and more deranged. Winning this election will only reinforce his belief that dishonesty pays dividends, and Republicans will continue to follow him anywhere. If he loses, that will be a start toward reasserting that truth and trustworthiness matter. Sure, just a start, but a necessary one.

Elizabeth Dwoskin/Craig Timberg: The unseen machine pushing Trump's social media megaphone into overdive: "Researchers say the online feedback loop between Trump, high-profile influencers and rank-and-file followers is more dangerous than Russian misinformation."

Juliet Eilperin: Trump to strip protections from Tongass National Forest, one of the biggest intact temperate rainforests.

Garrett M Graff: 'There are no boundaries': Experts imagine Trump's post-presidential life if he loses. My own fearless prediction: whatever he does will be disgusting, and he'll only do as much of it as he can get other people (including the taxpayer) to pay for.

Karen J Greenberg: Donald Trump's failed state.

Michael Kruse: The swamp that birth Trump: "Trump's first chronicler revealed how New York's corrupt political culture imparted to the young developer the skills he brought to Washington."

Eric Lipton/Benjamin Weiser: Turkish bank case showed Erdogan's influence with Trump.

Martin Longman: Pompeo and the Trump crusade to politicize the federal workforce.

Jane Mayer: Why Trump can't afford to lose: "The President has survived one impeachment, twenty-six accusations of sexual misconduct, and an estimated four thousand lawsuits. That run of good luck may well end, perhaps brutally, if Joe Biden wins."

Timothy Noah: How the stock market betrayed Donald Trump: "The president foolishly rested his reelection hopes on economic indices that are even more irrational than he is."

Andrew Prokop: The unmasking of Anonymous, explained. Turns out the guy who wrote the famous New York Times op-ed, and followed it up with a book, A Warning, was Miles Taylor. Who? Who cares? More on Anonymous:

  • Masha Gessen: If we are going to recover from Trumpism, we must deny charity to Trump's henchmen.

    The D.H.S. is the heart, soul, and shock troops of the Trump Administration. Ending immigration as we know it was Trump's obsession and the dominant theme of his Presidential campaign. He pledged to build a border wall and close the country to Muslims, and he began delivering on these campaign promises as soon as he took office. He proceeded to destroy the asylum system by reversing Obama-era rules that granted asylum to victims of gang violence and domestic violence, by requiring people in need of international protection to stay in Mexico while their cases were being reviewed, and by implementing a policy of separating children from their parents at the border, placing them in separate detention facilities. At the time Taylor published his Op-Ed, his department had implemented all of those policies. Children were in cages. Refugee camps were forming at the southern border.

    Taylor didn't mention immigration in his Op-Ed. In A Warning, he focussed on the damage the President had done to America's international relationships, his attacks on the media, his destruction of the system of separation of powers, his betrayal (in Taylor's view) of Republican economic policies, but, most of all, on Trump's unhinged, uncouth ways -- his tendency to act as though the government were his henchmen.

  • Olivia Nuzzi: Enablement: The tortured self-justification of one very powerful Trump-loathing anonymous Republican. "The idea that he won is still shocking. He's a permanent scar on the face of our country."

David Rohde: How America escapes its conspiracy-theory crisis.

Joe Wertz: Trump's pullback of pollution controls is even more hazardous than you think.

Supreme Court and Other Injustices

The week started with Amy Coney Barrett has officially been confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, giving the Federalist Society a 6-3 majority.


Angelina Chapin: Louisville cop sues Breonna Taylor's boyfriend for 'emotional distress'.

Garrett Epps: Independent judiciary, RIP.

Matt Ford:

Sean Illing: The case for stripping the Supreme Court of its power: "A Harvard law professor on whether it's time to rethink the nation's highest court." Old 2018 interview with Mark Tushnet, who at the time was already worried by Brett Kavanaugh's appointment.

Ed Kilgore:

Marin K Levy: Republicans have already packed state supreme courts.

Ian Millhiser:

Anna North:

Around the World

Jariel Arvin: A 7.0 earthquake struck near Greece and Turkey, killing at least 14 and injuring hundreds.

Regine Cabato/Jason Samenow: Typhoon Goni smashes into the Philippines, heads toward capital. Peak winds hit 195 mph ("as strong as any landfalling storm on record"). Also: "The typhoon threatens the country just days after Typhooon Molave struck, killing at least 22 people, mostly south of Manila, according to Reuters. Goni is following a similar path."

Will Moreland: To compete with China and Russia, America needs a new era of multilateralism. Agree on multilateralism, but rather than repeating the Cold War folly of trying to organize the world against Russia and China, we need to find ways to cooperate with them. Moreland insists Russia and China are "a contest that cannot be wished away," and he focuses on the need to counter authoritarianism abroad. The obvious first step there is to counter it at home. But we should recognize that American support for dictators didn't start with Trump. It started in the 1940s with American strategists who felt we picked the wrong enemy and should have been fighting the Soviet Union instead of Nazi Germany. After WWII ended, they started recruiting former Nazis as assets for the global struggle against Communism. The Cold War is littered with high-sounding liberal rhetoric mixed with tactical support for dictators -- anything to ensure access for American capital and to keep left-leaning unions and parties out of power -- the net result merely proving America as the most hypocritical of nations. One can imagine a genuinely liberal foreign policy, one that promoted not just the usual democratic freedoms but let people everywhere assume more power over their lives, through governments more responsive to their needs. Still, neither the "realist" nor the "neocon" schools of foreign policy mandarinism support anything like that, even if they're willing to selectively spout the words to further their conflicts with their supposed enemies.

Alex Ward: Japan's new prime minister has just one year to save the country from crisis.

Other Matters

David Atkins: The GOP conspiracy mentality will only become more dangerous when they lose power.

Zack Beauchamp: How an Israeli thinker became one of Trumpism's foremost theorists: Yoram Hazony, president of the Herzl Institute think tank, author of a 2018 book called The Virtue of Nationalism. Michael Anton is a fan, and he probably ranks as the preëminent Trumpist intellectual around these days. Back in 2016, Anton wrote a pro-Trump essay called "The Flight 93 Election" in 2016, as if electing a Democrat would be so horrific that a suicide rush was preferable, and has a recent, even more hysterical screed: The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return. What makes Israeli settlers models for the American far right is their example as an elite which takes what it wants and holds it by force, with no bother pretending anyone else benefits, or even matters. In many ways they are recapitulating America's own settlement of the frontier, something which appeals to nostalgic gun-toting MAGA cowboys.

Fabiola Cineas: The Philadelphia police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., explained: "Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot in front of his mother while reportedly experiencing a mental health crisis."

Eleanor Cummins: Is this the end of American optimism? "Facing a seemingly endless pandemic and an election that has little hope of going smoothly, we're all on a grim, existential roller coaster now." Well, if Trump wins on Tuesday, that will wipe out what little's left of my optimism. One thing I thought I knew from close observation of American politics since 1960 is that while things have never worked out the way I hoped or wanted, somehow those in power managed to slog through without breaking everything -- even such disastrous wounds as the Vietnam War scabbed over, not that they learned the right (or any) lessons from their folly. Much of this resilience derives from business and other non-government organizations, and from civil relations, from everyday humanity. One can't help but wonder what kind of beating we're taking from the fear and isolation the pandemic is forcing on us. Trump's big pitch in the last days of the campaign is one of defiance, demanding that we not let the pandemic ruin our lives, that we go back to our pre-pandemic norms regardless of the costs in lives. I suspect that is a winning argument, and it is what will happen over the next year, even if we're smart enough to vote him out. Optimism always rebounds, even when it embraces irrationality. But better not to be so myopic and stupid about it.

Shirin Ghaffary: 5 fact-checks from the Senate's hearing on social media. More on the Senate hearings:

Richard Hanania: Americans hate each other. But we aren't headed for civil war.

Carol Lay: How to be an effective left-wing internet troll: Seems like something I might like to try, so I dug in and did my due dilligence. Eventually I concluded I couldn't hack it. Suggestion that wiped me out: "Skip the really long thoughtful posts. No one else reads them, either." Don't I know it.

John Patrick Leary: Who gets included in "the American people"? "The enduring struggle over who is deserving of political representation."

Nicholas Lemann: Losing Ground: "The crisis of the two-party system." Reviews three books: Robert B Reich: The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It; Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality; and Robert P Saldin/Steven M Teles: Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites. I've read, and can heartily recommend, Let Them Eat Tweets, along with most of the authors' previous books -- especially The Great Risk Shift (2007) is important for its little appreciated topic (few people realize they are carrying extra risk until it's too late), and American Amnesia (2016). I haven't read the others, and doubt I ever will.

JC Pan: Pandemic fatigue is just exhaustion in the face of a failed state: "Americans are increasingly frustrated by the obligation to ride out a global disaster on their own. They have every reason to be." The genius of Republican administration is that they're so bad (and so corrupt) at it that you give up on the very idea that government was intended to "promote the general welfare." Fatigue was bound to happen just as a function of time, but the level of failure one is willing to accept is a matter of political calculation.

Lili Pike: Why the record low Arctic sea ice this October is so alarming.

Peter Sterne: Inside Glenn Greenwald's blowup with the Intercept. As I recall, Greenwald started out as a fairly apolitical lawyer with libertarian tendencies, who became radicalized as Bush's Global War on Terror impinged on civil liberties. I read his first book, and it was pretty innocuous: How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values From a President Run Amok? He moved from there into blogging -- With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful seemed like a sharper title -- and even did some credible journalism (e.g., on Edward Snowden, and on Brazil after he moved there). He helped found the Intercept, but seems to have been increasingly peripheral lately, so the break appears to be a mix of ego and politics -- as a libertarian, he seems to want to attack Biden as much as Trump, which I'd say is premature (what good, right now, does it do to attack Biden for positions he shares with Trump?). I haven't cited him a lot lately, but I've occasionally found him useful (7 articles this year). Also on Greenwald:

Emily Stewart: Rashida Tlaib and AOC have a proposal for a fairer, greener financial system -- public banking.

Paul Sullivan: For owners looking to sell, an option that keeps their company intact: "A sale to employees keeps the company local, and that may be more important to some owners than getting the highest price." Always happy to see a story where employees take ownership of a business. From my own experience I've seen how even modest stock options help to align employee and management interests. We need better laws to facilitate this sort of transfer. Several people have floated "codetermination" -- the practice in Germany of giving employees seats on corporate boards, which is a big part of the reason Germany continues to run positive exports on manufactured goods, despite some of the world's highest wages. I'd like to see bankruptcy law changed so that companies that have been bankrupted by vulture capitalists can be reconstituted as employee-run, even where creditors lose out. I also support unions, but employee-run businesses are a better solution.

Jonathan Watts: 'Sleeping giant' Arctic methane deposits starting to release, scientists find.

Gene Weingarten: In search of healing: "America is facing one of the deepest divides in our history -- and, no matter who wins the election, a difficult path forward." Not the point of the article, but his critique of Trump is spot on. And while he tries to soften his chagrin with Trump's fan base, it's hard to escape the notion that they're somehow lacking: in knowledge for sure, understanding, perhaps even character.

I think Trump is amoral. I think he is a sociopath. I think he is a boor and a vulgarian. I think he is comically thin-skinned and vindictive. I think he is adolescently petty. Because I usually write humor columns, which confer a license to exaggerate, I have called him "America's Chief Petty Officer." I have noted that his supporters often argue that "Hey, at least he is not a politician," which, I wrote, is like "putting your money on a chicken in the Kentucky Derby because at least he's not a horse."

I think he has no empathy for anyone's suffering, something proven time and again: . . . I think he is a reflexive, congenital liar. I think his recent attempts at so-called populism -- suggesting, for example, that we teach "pro-American" history -- are a prehensile tactic, grabbing for a toehold from a shrinking and increasingly insipid political base. . . .

I find myself profoundly disliking and disrespecting almost half of my countrymen and women -- the group of Americans that support Trump, and it feels absolutely terrible.

Adam Weinstein: The great GOP dystopian experiment is working exactly as planned in Florida: "Republicans have run the place into the ground. Yet voters keep electing them to state and national office. Why?"

Matthew Yglesias: 2 models for regulating social media giants, explained: "We could treat them like phone companies or like TV networks, but not both." My own preference is a third path, which is to publicly fund free services, using open-source software, that would compete with the Internet giants but not do the evil things, like spying and selling user data, that Google, Facebook, etc. do. My guess is that if such organizations appear, users will flock to them, and we'll all be better off.

Zeta knocks out power to 2 million: Louisiana was hit by a category 2 hurricane last week, which then cut across the southeast into the Carolinas with high winds and heavy rain before heading East into the Atlantic. A series of reports. One thing I'll add is that Zeta is not the end of the Greek alphabet, although it's further down the list than we've ever gotten before.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (final).

Music: Current count 34260 [34222] rated (+38), 214 [215] unrated (-1).

I haven't been in much of a hurry to get this week's post out. (Cutoff was Thursday, Oct. 29, but didn't get the post up until Oct. 30.) I was delayed a day by Weekend Roundup. I missed two or three days of listening mid-week as I was preoccupied cooking an abbreviated version of my annual birthday dinner, so I didn't have much to show for the week anyway. I hadn't updated my Music Tracking or Metacritic files for a while, so had quite a bit of catching up to do there. I also wanted to take a pass at assembling my EOY Jazz and Non-Jazz files -- if nothing else to get a sense of whether my own grading was still historically consistent in this very abnormal year. All those things took lots of time. Besides, after the weather turned bad, I turned 70, and my massive report on last week's news fell on (evidently) deaf ears, I convinced myself no one much will miss a few days here. Plus we have extra days in October, so taking a few extra days just helps round up the monthly compendium (link above).

For the record, birthday dinner consisted of:

  • Yogurtlu kebap: marinated and grilled lamb cubes, served with tomato and yogurt sauces over toasted pita bread (my initial plans to bake my own Turish pide bread -- not the same thing -- fell through), with grilled long peppers and spiced butter.
  • B'stilla (or bisteeya), a cinnamon-flavored onion-chicken mixture plus a layer of almonds wrapped and baked in filo dough.
  • Filo rolls (or "cigars"), stuffed with feta and cream cheese. (Not something I planned for, but I had leftover dough.)
  • Green bean ragout (Turkish: fasulye).
  • Eggplant-tomato salad (Moroccan: zaalouk).
  • Cumin-flavored carrot salad (Moroccan).
  • Cucumber-yogurt salad (Iranian: mast va khiar).
  • Spinach with preserved lemon peel (Moroccan).
  • Onion-orange-olive salad (Turkish and/or Moroccan).
  • Coconut cake (Mom's classic recipe).
  • Flourless chocolate cake.
  • Vanilla ice cream (store-bought).

We tried eating in the backyard. (One reason for going with Turkish is that it always seemed like camping food. Indeed, I've cooked some over a wood fire at my late Idaho cousin's rustic cabin.) I reported on this dinner on Facebook (should be public -- for photos, here's one of the spread, and another of a plate). The leftovers have lingered as long as the gestation of this post. Laura finally finished the cake today, and I took the last four filo rolls and refried them in butter with an egg. (There may be some carrots left.)

Another factor in the delay was that I wanted to follow Weekend Roundup with some more reflective comments. I posted on Monday a few minutes after the Senate confirmed Trump's appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, but before I had seen the news reports. The vote wasn't unexpected, but it feels like the country has taken a sudden turn for the worse. Of course, it won't until she starts ruling on cases, but the curse of consciousness is that you can rationally anticipate disasters. And while that runs the risk of exaggerating the peril, I've found through long experience that my fears are usually warranted, and most of my errors were on the low side. In particular, I tend to expect people in a position of power to react rationally to reduce the damage caused by their initial delusions. One can cite instances of this happening, like how the Fed struggled to save a banking industry which in 2008 seemed hell bent on self-destruction. On the other hand, we've seen numerous instances of dysfunctional ideology tightening its grip trying to save face, as with the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there are few examples of mindless delusion taking charge as in Trump's recent campaign of defiance against the rising wave of pandemic. How disastrous Trump's course will prove depends a lot on Tuesday's election results. A very grave prospect would be lessened: if Trump loses decisively, and if Trump concedes with any measure of grace, and if Trump refrains from using his lame-duck months deliberately sabotaging the incoming administration. While I remain hopeful of the first point -- my prediction is that Trump will lose worse than any incumbent president since Herbert Hoover -- nothing in the past or current behavior of Trump and those deluded enough to follow him suggests that the transition will be peaceful, let alone smooth.

I've been wanting to say something about what I've learned about politics over the 60 years I've been following closely. I've come to the conclusions that two points are of fundamental import:

  1. We live in a world of bewildering complexity, far beyond the abilities of individuals -- even really bright ones (like myself) -- to understand and maintain in sufficient working order. Accordingly, we need and depend on experts for guidance and direction, and since we cannot know enough to direct them, we need to be able to trust that what they do will be in our collective interests. This is hard to do when individuals are subject to so many competing interests, a list which starts with the profit motive and extends to all manner of tribal and political allegiances. Policy needs to be designed so that we have sufficient expertise, and that it be wielded by people who can be trusted to put our collective interests above their own special interests. Transparency helps here.

  2. Collective interests may be expressed through government, but even more important is their provision of justice. Government itself must be viewed as just -- as fair, respectful, trustworthy, orderly, and predictable. Just governments are usually based on a popular mandate, but are most often and critically tested in their treatment of minorities. Injustice is a perception, and it doesn't take many people viewing government as unjust to undermine its ability to function.

I didn't design this to support a case for voting for Biden-Harris to defeat Donald Trump, but my steadfast horror and opposition to Trump ultimately derives from these two points. Trump and his Republicans have decided that politics is the sole arbitrator of truth, and that they can impose their will on the world. This isn't some novelty that Trump invented. Karl Rove offered a clear statement back in the early "feel good" days of the Global War on Terror, when he insisted that as an Empire Americans were creating facts that others could only contemplate after the fact. The folly of their ego has become clear with their denial of climate change, which has become an article of faith with them despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. But Trump's evasion and denial of the Covid-19 pandemic has an even more immediate impact: the latest (October 30) Map and Case Count shows cases up 42% (to 90,728 per day, over 9 million total) over 14 days. And while it's widely acknowledged that we've gotten better at treatment, deaths are up 16%, to 1,004 for the day and 229,239 total.[*] This is not just the consequence of bad policy based on contempt for science and, for that matter, the US Constitution's mandate that government should "provide for the comon defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty." It's what you get when a ruling clique decide that they can get away with anything by lying about it and/or blaming others.

More troubling still is the degradation of the view that the US government is just, fair, and inclusive. I hardly need to enumerate the myriad ways Trump has added to this perception, but should stress that even before 2016, the American economy had become more stratified than at any point in history. (Past peaks typically occurred just before major recessions, like 1893, 1929, and 2007, but the recovery from the latter -- rescuing banks and stocks while letting mortgages and wages dangle -- went almost exclusively to the already rich.) Moreover, thanks to lobbying and unlimited campaign funding and the political suppression of unions, power has flowed to business, and the most common source of injustice is the concentration of power. As Clinton and Obama did little (if anything) to stem this tide, Trump was able to take advantage of a widespread sense of decay, but being himself a creature wholly made by the privileges of wealth, he's done absolutely nothing to right past wrongs, and added more of his own devising. The most troublesome aspect of this has been the resurgence of racism under Trump -- early on, mostly coded against immigrants, but recently Republicans have found a target in Black Lives Matter, to the point where they actually seem to be celebrating police shooting unarmed blacks. Republicans may fantasize of repressing protests so violently they vanish from fear, but injustice eats away at the moral underpinnings of society, ultimately destroying the victors as well as the vanquished.

I had a few more political points, but will hold them off until Weekend Roundup, which starts whenever I manage to close this.

EOY lists were collected from the Year 2020 file, but I haven't gotten around to resorting them yet. One thing I noticed is that early albums ranked relatively high in the lists. That's probably an artifact of incremental list building. The current split is 54 jazz A/A-, 43 non-jazz. First pass on the lists usually splits like that, but evens out in January as I catch up with EOY lists. I was a bit worried that I was generating more A- records than is my custom, but if anything I'm a bit low. Last year's totals wound up with 77 jazz and 77 non-jazz. As February-October represents 75% of the rating year, a 12-month linear projection would expect the current list to expand to 72 jazz, 57 non-jazz.

I don't have a way to compare rating rate to same time last year, but I have 982 records rated so far this year, vs. 1252 for all of 2019. The 2020 tracking file at present lists 3667 records, vs. 5178 for 2019. Using the same time projection, I'd expect 1309 records rated this year (up 4.5%). The total listed would scale up to 4889 (down 5.6%), but I expect the number will rise instead. (Most of the list growth occurs during the EOY list period. The file will contain every record mentioned.)

Metacritic file (link above) is mostly updated through last week (based on AOTY, but not other sources), but doesn't yet include October 30 releases.

Did a brief check for recent deaths, knowing that Billy Joe Shaver (81) had passed. I gave Unshaven: Live at Smith's Olde Bar (1995) an A- in October. Great songs, cranked up a bit by a band that included his guitarist son.

One death I hadn't noticed was that of Jan Myrdal (93). Myrdal was Swedish, the son of Gunnar and Alva Myrdal, who wrote what in 1944 passed for the definitive study of racism in America: An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy. His parents were big believers in America's liberal tradition, but Jan Myrdal was decidedly more radical, with an early fascination with Asia and the Chinese revolution. I read two books by him: his early memoir Confessions of a Disloyal European (1968) and Angkor: An Essay on Art and Imperialism (1970, with his wife and illustrator Gun Kessle). The latter's critique of imperialism had a huge influence on me personally. I can't recommend it too highly.

[*] As Donald Trump Jr argued: "I went through the CDC data, because I kept hearing about new infections, but I was like, 'Why aren't they talking about deaths?' Oh, because the number is almost nothing." The "nothing" number on that day: 1,004.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Benny the Butcher: Burden of Proof (2020, Griselda): [r]: B+(**)
  • Benjamin Boone: The Poets Are Gathering (2017-20 [2020], Origin): [r]: B+(***)
  • BTS: Map of the Soul: 7 (2020, Big Hit): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Cadillac Three: Tabasco & Sweet Tea (2020, Big Machine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Clipping: Visions of Bodies Being Burned (2020, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bootsy Collins: The Power of the One (2020, Sweetwater Sounds): [r]: B+(***)
  • Open Mike Eagle: Anime, Trauma and Divorce (2020, Auto Reverse): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kahil El'Zabar: Kahil El'Zabar's America the Beautiful (2018 [2020], Spiritmuse): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Flaming Lips: American Head (2020, Warner/Bella Union): [r]: B+(*)
  • Fred Hersch: Songs From Home (2020, Palmetto): [cd]: B+(***) [11-06]
  • Homeboy Sandman: Don't Feed the Monster (2020, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • The JCA Orchestra: Live at the BPC (2018 [2020], JCA): [cd]: B [11-06]
  • James Brandon Lewis Quartet: Molecular (2020, Intakt): [r]: A-
  • Low Cut Connie: Private Lives (2020, Contender): [r]: B
  • Lera Lynn: On My Own (2020, Ruby Range): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lyrics Born & Cutso: Lyrics Born & Cutso Present Rapp Nite (2019, self-released, EP): [r]: A-
  • Major Lazer: Music Is the Weapon (2020, Mad Decent): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Mountain Goats: Getting Into Knives (2020, Merge): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pop Smoke: Meet the Woo 2 (2020, Victor Victor/Republic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pop Smoke: Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon (2020, Victor Victor/Republic): [r]: B+(*)
  • PUP: This Place Sucks Ass (2020, BMG, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joel Ross: Who Are You (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sa-Roc: The Sharecropper's Daughter (2020, Rhymesayers): [r]: B+(**)
  • Darrell Scott: Jaroso (2020, Full Light): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sturgill Simpson: Cuttin' Grass Vol. 1 (The Butcher Shoppe Sessions) (2020, High Top Mountain): [r]: A-
  • The Soft Pink Truth: Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase? (2020, Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(*)
  • Songhoy Blues: Optimisme (2020, Transgressive/Fat Possum): [r]: B+(**)
  • SPAZA: Uprize! (2016 [2020], Mushroom Hour Half Hour): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bruce Springsteen: Letter to You (2019 [2020], Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Josh Turner: Country State of Mind (2020, MCA Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Loudon Wainwright III With Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks: I'd Rather Lead a Band (2019 [2020], Search Party): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Allman Brothers Band: The Final Note: Painters Mill Music Fair, Owings Mills, MD 10-17-71 (1971 [2020], Allman Brothers): [r]: B-
  • Wanda Jackson: The Capitol Singles 1971-1973 (1971-73 [2020], EMI Music Nashville): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Lennon: Gimme Some Truth: The Ultimate Mixes (1969-84 [2020], Universal, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Leyla McCalla: Vari-Colored Songs: A Tribute to Langston Hughes (2013 [2020], Smithsonian Folkways): [r]: B+(***)
  • Edward Simon: 25 Years (1995-2018 [2020], Ridgeway, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Johnny Thunders: Live From Zürich 1985 (1985 [2020], Johnny Thunders Archive): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Skip James: Blues From the Delta (1966-68 [1998], Vanguard): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Susan Alcorn Quintet: Pedernal (Relative Pitch) [11-06]
  • Noah Bless: New York Strong: Latin Jazz! (Zoho)
  • Carla Campopiano: Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections, Vol. II (self-released) [11-01]
  • Ikue Mori/Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Prickly Pear Cactus (Libra) [12-04]

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Daily Log

Cale Siler posted this remarkable pro-Trump screed:

If you are a liberal who can't stand Trump, and cannot possibly fathom why anyone would ever vote for him, let me fill you in.

It's not that we love Donald Trump so much. It's that we can't stand you.

And we will do whatever it takes -- even if that means electing a rude, obnoxious, unpredictable, narcissist (your words not ours) to the office of President of the United States -- because the thing we find more dangerous to this nation than Donald Trump is YOU.

How is that possible you might ask?

Well, you have done everything in your power to destroy our country.

From tearing down the police, to tearing down our history, to tearing down our borders.

From systematically destroying our schools and brainwashing our kids into believing socialism is the answer to anything (despite being an unmitigated failure everywhere), while demonizing religion and faith, and glorifying abortion, violence, and thug culture.

From calling us racists every time we expect everyone of any skin color to follow our laws equally to gaslighting us about 52 genders, polyamory, grown men in dresses sharing public locker rooms with little girls, and normalize the sexualization of young children, you simultaneously ridicule us for having the audacity to wish someone a "Merry Christmas" or hang a flag on the 4th of July, stand for the national anthem, or (horror of horrors) don a MAGA hat in public.

So much for your "tolerance."

(See why we think you are just hypocrites??)

We're also not interested in the fact that you think you can unilaterally decide that 250 years of the right-to-bear-arms against a tyrannical or ineffective government should be abolished because you can't get the violence in the cities you manage under control. That free-speech should be tossed out the window, and that those who disagree with your opinions are fair game for public harassment or doxing. That spoiled children with nose-rings and tats who still live off their parent's dime should be allowed to destroy cities and peoples livelihoods without repercussions. That chaos, and lawlessness, and disrespect for authority should be the norm.

This is your agenda. And you wonder why we find you more dangerous than Donald Trump?

Your narrative is a constant drone of oppressor/oppressed race-baiting intended to divide the country in as many ways as you possibly can. You love to sell "victim-hood" to people of color every chance you get because it's such an easy sell, compared to actually teaching people to stand on their own two feet and take personal responsibility for their own lives and their own communities and their own futures. But you won't do that, you will never do that, because then you will lose control over people of color. They might actually start thinking for themselves, God forbid!

This is why we will vote for Donald Trump.

Not because he is the most charming character on the block.

Not because he is the most polite politician to have ever graced the oval office.

Not because he is the most palatable choice, or because we love his moral character or because the man never lies, but because we are sick to death of you and all of the destructive crap you are doing to this once beautiful and relatively safe country.

Your ineffective and completely dysfunctional liberal "leadership"(?) has literally destroyed our most beautiful cities, our public education system, and done it's damndest to rip faith out of people's lives.

However bad Donald Trump may be, and he is far from perfect, every day we look at you and feel that no matter what Donald Trump says or does there is no possible way he could be any worse for our country than you people are.

We are sick to death of your stupid, destructive, ignorant, and intolerant behavior and beliefs -- parading as "wokeness." We are beyond sick of your hypocrisy and B.S.

We are fed up with your disrespectful divisiveness and constant unrelenting harping and whining and complaining (while you live in the most privileged nation in the world), while making literally zero contributions of anything positive to our society. Your entire focus is on ripping things down, never ever building anything up. Think about that as there is something fundamentally very wrong in the psychology of people who choose destruction as their primary modus operandi.

When Donald J Trump is reelected, don't blame us, look in the mirror and blame yourselves.

Because you are the ones that are responsible for the rise of Donald Trump. You are the ones who have created this "monster" that you so despise, by your very actions. By your refusal to respect your fellow Americans, and the things that are important to us.

You have made fun of the "fly-over states," the people who "cling to their guns and religion," the middle class factory workers and coal miners and underprivileged rural populations that you dismissively call "yahoos" and "deplorables." You have mocked our faith and our religion. You have mocked our values and our patriotism. You have trampled our flag and insulted our veterans and treated our first responders with contempt and hatred.

You have made environmentalism your religion, while trashing every city you have taken responsibility for. You scream from the rooftops about "global warming" and a "green new deal" while allowing tens of thousands of homeless people to cover your streets in literal sh!t and garbage and needles and plastic waste without doing a single thing to help them or solve the environmental crisis your failed social policies are creating. But we're supposed to put YOU in charge of the environment while gutting our entire economy to institute this plan when you can't even clean up a single city??

You complain -- endlessly -- yet have failed to solve a single social problem anywhere. In fact, all you have done is create more of them.

We've had enough. We are tired of quietly sitting by and being the "silent" majority. So don't be surprised when the day comes when we finally respond. And trust me it's coming, sooner than you might think. And also trust me when I say it won't be pretty. Get ready.

When Donald Trump is reelected it will be because you and your "comrades" have chosen to trash the police, harass law-abiding citizens, and go on rampages destroying public property that we have all paid for and you have zero respect for.

When Donald Trump is reelected it will be because we are sick of your complete and utter nonsense and destruction. How does it feel to know that half of this country finds you FAR more despicable than Donald J. Trump, the man you consider to be the anti-Christ?

Let that sink in.

We consider you to be more despicable, more dangerous, more stupid, and more narcissistic than Donald Trump. Maybe allow yourself a few seconds of self-reflection to let that sink in. This election isn't about Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden.

This is about Donald Trump vs YOU.

So if on the morning of November 4 (or more likely January 19, by the time the Supreme Court will weigh in on the mail-in ballot fiasco that we are headed towards), and Donald J. Trump is reelected?

The only people you have to blame is the left-wing media drones and yourselves.

You did this . . . Yep you!

Monday, October 26, 2020

Blog link.

Once again, this week's news overwhelmed my ability to round it up by Sunday night. Music Week will also be pushed back a day.

Table of contents:

Noticed in the Wichita Eagle today an obituary for Michael Hannon. I knew him when we were students at Hamilton Intermediate School in Wichita, KS. He was part of a gaggle or clique of students that I associated with in 8th and 9th grades -- most were old friends from Gardiner, but we walked south together after school until they turned east, and I jogged west and south. His father and uncle were big shots in the Wichita Police Dept., and I remember him as being fervently pro-Goldwater in 1964 (for a brief moment he steered me that way). I went to Wichita High School South for 10th grade, while everyone else I knew went to East. That left me with no friends, and after hassles from the administration, I dropped out midway that year, only to get locked up for my truancy. I returned to South for 11th grade, turned 16, and quit again. The only bright spot in that miserable years was when Michael transferred to South, and was dropped into my remedial English class. So for a couple of months, he was my only friend. Not enough to survive my exit, but I've always remembered him fondly. Looks like he graduated from South, went to college, got a master's degree, got married, had a couple of kids, worked as a "residential health director," moving to Colorado then back to Wichita. He was a week or so younger than me. Obituary says "he believed that if everyone was kind to each other the world would be a better place." He was kind to me.

I was playing Leonard Cohen's extraordinary Live in London album recently. I've heard this song many times since it originally appeared in 1992, usually finding it it quaintly ironic, but ten days before the election, I finally heard it as prophetic, with nearly every line taking on new found significance (e.g., "the cradle of the best and the worst").

Covid in the US: Latest map and case count shows, as of October 25: 8.7 million+ cases (14-day change +32%), deaths 225,357 (14-day change +12%). The third wave now appears to be above the second wave peak back in July.


Endorsements

This is just a sampling. I could find hundreds more, hammering away at many of the same points. Needless to say, I endorse Biden-Harris, and have already voted for them.

The Atlantic: The case against Donald Trump: "The president of the United States poses a threat to our collective existence. The choice voters face is spectacularly obvious." Reminds readers of their 2016 endorsement, then goes on:

What we have learned since we published that editorial is that we understated our case. Donald Trump is the worst president this country has seen since Andrew Johnson, or perhaps James Buchanan, or perhaps ever. Trump has brought our country low; he has divided our people; he has pitted race against race; he has corrupted our democracy; he has shown contempt for American ideals; he has made cruelty a sacrament; he has provided comfort to propagators of hate; he has abandoned America's allies; he has aligned himself with dictators; he has encouraged terrorism and mob violence; he has undermined the agencies and departments of government; he has despoiled the environment; he has opposed free speech; he has lied frenetically and evangelized for conspiracism; he has stolen children from their parents; he has made himself an advocate of a hostile foreign power; and he has failed to protect America from a ravaging virus. Trump is not responsible for all of the 220,000 COVID-19-related deaths in America. But through his avarice and ignorance and negligence and titanic incompetence, he has allowed tens of thousands of Americans to suffer and die, many alone, all needlessly. With each passing day, his presidency reaps more death.

National Nurses United: Nurses endorse Joe Biden for President!

Unlike the disastrous response to the current pandemic from President Trump which has caused massive numbers of preventable infections and fatalities, Joe Biden has committed to a thoughtful and comprehensive response to the pandemic from the federal government. He is committed to fully invoke the Defense Production Act to mass produce PPE. He has also endorsed NNU's call for an emergency federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard to protect worker's safety during pandemics. The life and death implications of this election could not be clearer and more urgent.

New Hampshire Union Leader: Our choice is Joe Biden: Evidently, the first time the legendarily conservative newspaper has endorsed a Democrat (well, at least, in over 100 years).

The New York Times: Elect Joe Biden, America.

Mr. Biden knows that there are no easy answers. He has the experience, temperament and character to guide the nation through this valley into a brighter, more hopeful future. He has our endorsement for the presidency.

When they go to the polls this year, voters aren't just choosing a leader. They're deciding what America will be. They're deciding whether they favor the rule of law, how the government will help them weather the greatest economic calamity in generations, whether they want government to enable everyone to have access to health care, whether they consider global warming a serious threat, whether they believe that racism should be treated as a public policy problem.

The New York Times also published: R.I.P., G.O.P.: "The Party of Lincoln had a good run. Then came Mr. Trump." Actually, the whole enterprise went rotten long before Trump, who is unique only in not bothering to pretend that Republican rule seeks only to profit from graft and is actively hostile to anyone not in their select following. Trump may even have done us a favor in exhibiting his malign public policy as sociopathic personality. Most Republicans are careful to disguise their intentions and rationalize their effects. Even Trump lies incessantly about them, but so transparently only the most foolishly gullible believe him.

The New Yorker: The New Yorker endorses a Biden presidency: "It would be a relief simply to have a President who doesn't abuse the office as a colossal grift. But a new President must also address the failures that have been festering in American life for decades."

But, though many more voters supported his opponent, the Trump Presidency had to be endured. Contempt has been at the core of his time in office: contempt for the Constitution; contempt for truth and dissent; contempt for women and people of color; contempt for champions of civil rights as great as John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Trump's contempt for science and the basic welfare of Americans is so profound that, through an enraging combination of incompetence, indifference, and stupidity, he has failed to meet the pitiless demands of a viral pandemic. The national death toll is more than two hundred thousand.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Pennsylvania needs Joe Biden.

But more fundamentally, there is no common ground shared by Trump and Biden. Trump's lack of respect for the office he holds, his disregard for the country who looks for sound, informed, and unifying leadership, and his contempt for the democratic principles this country was founded on, make such comparisons both futile and absurd. To contrast Trump with a candidate like Biden, who has spent his life in public service, who has gravitas as well as experience in domestic and foreign affairs, and who, frankly, has a healthy relationship with reality, would do a disservice to Biden.

Rolling Stone: Joe Biden for President.

We've lived for the past four years under a man categorically unfit to be president. Fortunately for America, Joe Biden is Donald Trump's opposite in nearly every category: The Democratic presidential nominee evinces competence, compassion, steadiness, integrity, and restraint. Perhaps most important in this moment, Biden holds a profound respect for the institutions of American democracy, as well as a deep knowledge about how our government -- and our system of checks and balances -- is meant to work; he aspires to lead the nation as its president, not its dictator. The 2020 election, then, offers the nation a chance to reboot and rebuild from the racist, authoritarian, know-nothing wreckage wrought by the 45th president. And there are few Americans better suited to the challenge than Joe Biden.

Scientific American: Endorses Joe Biden: "We've never backed a presidential candidate in our 175-year history -- until now."

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people -- because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.

The Washington Post: Trump's America in 2024:

Many people may find it hard to understand, but just over a week before the election, some voters remain undecided. To them we would say: A vote for a second Trump term is a vote for an America in decline and an American democracy in danger. . . .

Mr. Trump would undermine all of those strengths. He replaces rule of law with presidential whim, picking and choosing corporate favorites and twisting the criminal system to favor his friends. At an accelerating pace, he is politicizing, corrupting and sapping the morale of our government -- our foreign service, our health and scientific agencies, our keepers of statistics. Many will hesitate to invest -- to build new factories or create new jobs -- if law and governmental power become unpredictable, wielded to reward cronies and punish the disfavored. . . .

In Mr. Trump's America, science and truth are treated with contempt. With his mangled response, the novel coronavirus has claimed more lives here than in any other country, and the pandemic and its accompanying recession could drag on long into a second Trump term. The contempt for science likewise shapes Mr. Trump's utter failure to respond to climate change.

Oma Seddiq: Only 4 major US newspapers have endorsed Trump for reelection: The Las Vegas Review-Journal, New York Post, Colorado Springs Gazette, and the Spokesman Review. I suppose you could also count this squirrelly piece by Ross Douthat: The last temptation of NeverTrump. Pro-Trump arguments inevitably depend on massive misrepresentations of Trump's actual record, usually accompanied by outrageous, hysterical lies about Biden and the Democrats. Presumably the latter justify the former.

Campaigns and Elections

There was a second debate between Trump and Biden last week. Reports generally agree that Trump embarrassed himself less this time, that he continues to support very unpopular policies, barely camouflaged with an armada of lies.

Vox [Zack Beauchamp, German Lopez, Dylan Scott, Emily Stewart, Jane Coaston, Jen Kirby, Dylan Matthews]: 4 winners and 5 losers from the last Biden-Trump debate. Winners: Joe Biden; Kristen Welker; the mute button; New York. Losers: Donald Trump; Medicare-for-all; Senate Republicans; Social justice; China.

538: What went down during the final presidential debate of 2020. Typical take: "Biden was blah, Trump wasn't as bad as before." Fair and balanced?

Sasha Abramsky: Trump sinks to new depths of deceit and depravity: "His mendacity level was through the roof, and his lack of empathy was even more on display."

Tim Alberta: The unspectacular excellence of Joe Biden's slow and steady campaign.

Shawn Boburg: Trump campaign flouted agreement to follow health guidelines at rally, documents show.

David Corn: Yes, Trump was calmer in debate no. 2. He's still a narcissist with no sense of empathy.

Chas Danner:

  • White House chief of staff: 'We are not going to control the pandemic'.

  • As Trump downplays the third wave, another Covid-19 outbreak strikes the White House. "At least five members of Vice-President Mike Pence's inner circle have tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days."

    The 83,000 new cases reported on Friday set a new daily record for the U.S. pandemic. Nearly 83,000 more were then reported on Saturday, according to the COVID Tracking Project, and experts predict the country will soon undoubtedly reach 100,000 new cases per day. In the past week, the number of new cases nationwide has increased more than 20 percent, while the number of deaths from COVID-19 has increased by more than 15 percent. In the Midwest, the number of cases per million people has now surpassed both the spring peak in the Northeast during the first wave and the summer peak in the South during the second wave.

    Article quotes a Trump tweet:

    That's all I hear about now. Turn on TV, 'Covid, Covid, Covid Covid Covid.' A plane goes down, 500 people dead, they don't talk about it. 'Covid Covid Covid Covid Covid.' By the way, on November 4th, you won't hear about it anymore . . . 'please don't go and vote, Covid!'

    I'd put the odds that mass media stops reporting on Covid-19 on November 4 at 0% (not that they wouldn't demote it for a good plane crash). Danner concludes:

    This rhetoric is now a big, supposedly entertaining part of Trump's stump speech amid the final stretch of his campaign. And now more people in the White House have caught COVID-19, just like in communities all over the country, while the president continues to hold large rallies in multiple states experiencing big surges and uncontrolled spread -- and where, as seen above, he publicly reduces the pandemic to a punchline.

Mark Danner: The con he rode in on: "Why do people hardly even talk about all the car plants Donald Trump has brought to Michigan?" Huh? Danner produced a quote from a Trump book written in 1987:

People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That's why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.

I call it truthful hyperbole. It's an innocent form of exaggeration -- and a very effective form of promotion.

Danner adds:

"Truthful hyperbole" because the details of that created world emerge from one central belief in the hero's mind, rooted directly in his gargantuan and fragile ego: I have done an incredible job. All those auto plants and steel plants become not lies or creations but exaggerations flowering decoratively from that a priori truth. Before the crowd of red-faced partisans chanting his name, he transformed from a snake-oil salesman, a great pattering con man in the Elmer Gantry tradition, a postmodern Willy Loman, to a masterful crafter and seller of dreams. They believed him and not their lyin' eyes because they wanted so desperately to believe.

Jonathan Easley: GOP pollster Luntz blasts Trump campaign as worst he's ever seen.

Matt Ford: Trump is giving America a grisly preview of a second term: "If reelected, he would likely take his exuberant penchant for corruption and vindictiveness to pornographic heights." This might be a good place to add a note. More often than not, presidents have been less effective in second terms than in first. Eisenhower and Reagan were much less vital in their second terms, partly due to health issues, partly because 6-year elections went very bad for them. GW Bush barely eked out a second term win, and was all thumbs after that, losing to Katrina and Iraq in his 5th year, losing Congress his 6th year, then blowing a hole in the economy, and winding up even more unpopular than Trump is now (or Wilson was by the end of his second term). Clinton and Obama lost Congress in their first mid-term elections, recovered enough to eek out a second term but stuck with a hostile Congress. Trump might be the exception here. For one thing, he set the bar pretty low in his first term, especially since he lost the House after 2 years. But also, he's learning how to use executive power to unilaterally implement his agenda, and as the courts are increasingly packed with Federalist Society flunkees, he's even more likely to get away with his plots and schemes. Congress will complain, and the House will probably impeach him again, but his vetoes will be sustained, and Democrats are unlikely to sabotage the economy just to spite him (as Republicans did to Obama). We'll wind up in a situation where the Constitution's vaunted "checks and balances" will have broken down, where vast executive powers that had been unwisely granted over the years will be construed to give Trump dictatorial powers, and where the courts will rubber-stamp his every wish. Given how malign Trump's agenda is, and how petty and vindictive he is himself, the results will be disastrous, and he will become even more unpopular than he already is. So while Ford paints a "grisly" future, if anything he underrates the potential for ruin.

Susan B Glasser: Trump at the debate was like America in 2020: Not winning.

Gabrielle Gurley: Florida's voter suppression obsession.

Maggie Haberman/Michael Crowley: Trump calls on Barr to 'act' against Biden before election: "The president is increasingly fixated on seeing criminal action against his political opponents."

Benjamin Hart/Olivia Nuzzi: The debate guardrails were a gift for Trump.

Ben Jacobs: 'Grand slam': GOP insiders texted me their honest feelings about the final debate.

Sarah Jones:

  • Trump donors blew $1 billion on the QVC president. There's a long list of expenses here, but they don't come close to adding up.

    Donald Trump's donors want to know where all the money went. The president raised -- and spent -- nearly $1 billion since 2017, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. Now a candidate famous for his performative wealth is at a disadvantage. Joe Biden and the Democrats are about to outspend the Republicans "by more than 2-to-1" on advertising, according to the AP. Trump is canceling ads in battleground states, including Wisconsin, and appears to hope that his rallies will make up the difference. . . .

    Trump was always profligate and too incompetent to compensate for his poor impulse control. He repeatedly wasted his father's money, much of it on bad business deals. In the absence of real business acumen, a simulacrum must suffice, so Trump invested in his brand image. . . . Buying a Trump product was an optimistic if gullible gesture, the equivalent of buying something from a midnight segment on QVC. His voters and donors make a similar mistake. He is the QVC president, a dupe for a higher-quality product. . . . Trump's donors bought garbage and got garbage.

  • Focus group slams Trump for no empathy in final presidential debate: "Veteran pollster Stan Greenberg says it was a "disastrous" performance by the president, according to people who watched."

  • Militias pose high risk of election violence, new report says: I'm not sure how much to credit this. It's not that I doubt there will be incidents, but there aren't that damn many militias, and voting is going on everywhere, with a lot of it in advance.

Dhruv Khullar: How Trump became the pro-infection candidate.

As a physician, of course, I take the medical view of the pandemic; in a sense, I've experienced it firsthand. Caring for COVID-19 patients at the height of New York City's first wave, I watched as the medical profession, so often fragmented by ego and hierarchy, coalesced around the certainty that any loss of life is a tragedy. Nurses and doctors worked for weeks on end with little respite, often separated from their families to avoid infecting them. Clinicians poured in from across the country to help. Health-care leaders held daily briefings, scrambled for P.P.E., and searched for ventilators. Facilities crews reorganized hospitals. Everyone -- even those who weren't seeing patients -- started wearing masks. On the coronavirus wards, we went further, donning goggles, gowns, gloves, respirators, and shoe coverings. Contagious patients were placed in negative-pressure rooms and sometimes seen through telemedicine; infected people who didn't need hospitalization but couldn't isolate from their loved ones at home were offered hospital-based housing. Husbands, wives, parents, and siblings died alone. Women gave birth without their partners present. All this was done not out of fear but out of concern. We didn't want even a single person to get the virus unnecessarily. Our commitment was sharpened by the knowledge that we were witnessing many preventable deaths.

As the virus surged around the country, millions of Americans upended their lives and adopted new habits to protect one another. All the while, the President and his team pursued a different path. Declining to wear a mask or follow basic social-distancing guidance, Trump tweeted about "liberating" states and promoted discredited therapies. Overwhelmed by the task of fighting the virus, he pulled from the playbook of tobacco companies and climate-change deniers, casting doubt on the statistics. The rise in cases reflected only increased testing; the number of deaths had been doctored; the virus's lethality had been overstated -- as his dodges piled up, it became clear that he had no interest in grappling with the reality of hundreds of thousands of deaths. . . .

The U.S. is now entering what seems to be a new wave of infection; over the past week, the country saw, on average, more than sixty thousand new cases a day. In many states, COVID-19 wards are filling up again, and some places are seeing record-high hospitalizations; the Midwest is experiencing its largest growth in cases since the start of the pandemic. According to some models, the U.S. could experience nearly four hundred thousand COVID-19 deaths before the next President is sworn in. Despite all this, Trump would likely interpret reëlection as a validation of his approach. We could find ourselves living even more deeply in two incompatible worlds: a medical world, in which doctors, hospitals, scientists, and public-health professionals continue doing their best to grapple with the virus, and a political one, in which wishful thinking and pseudoscience rule. Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. We could move, together, into a single, fact-based world -- one in which we confront reality and work to improve it.

Ed Kilgore:

Jen Kirby/Rani Molla: Early voting in 2020 has already exceeded all of 2016's early votes: "More than 51 million people have already voted early in 2020, surpassing 2016's overall early vote total."

Ezra Klein: The fight is for democracy: "The stakes of this election are so high because the system itself is at stake." Starts by quoting Melissa Schwartzberg:

"The really important question is when do electoral losers think that it's in their interest to go along with their defeat, and when do they think they're better off resisting and revolting?" Schwartzberg replied. "It has to be that they think they have some better chance of obtaining power in the long run by continuing to abide by the rules of the game."

In American politics in 2020, both sides doubt that abiding by loss is the surest path back to power. This is an election -- and more than an election, it is a politics -- increasingly defined by a fight over what the rules of the game should be.

Democrats see a political system increasingly rigged against them and the voters they represent, and they are right. They are facing an Electoral College where a 2- to 3-point win in the popular vote still means Republicans are favored to take the presidency. They are vying to win back control of a Senate where Republicans have a 6- to 7-point advantage. The simple truth of American politics right now is this: Republicans can lose voters, sometimes badly, and still win power. Democrats need landslides to win power.

It gets worse. Democrats fear a doom loop. They are faced with the reality that when they lose power, Republicans will draw districts and change rules and hand down Supreme Court decisions that further weaken their voters, that pull America further from anything resembling democracy. Democrats have watched it happen in recent years again and again, as I document below. Losing begets losing, because in the American political system, electoral winners have the power to rewrite electoral rules.

But Republicans also see their position as desperate. They know their coalition is shrinking. They know that they are winning power but losing voters. They see a younger, more diverse, and more liberal generation building against them. They fear that Democratic efforts to expand the franchise and make voting an easily exercised right rather than a politically metered privilege will spell their long-term demise. They believe that mass democracy is inimical to their interests, and they state that fact baldly.

In March, when House Democrats proposed vote-by-mail options, same-day registration, and expanded early voting -- a package Republicans blocked -- President Donald Trump told the Fox & Friends hosts, "They had things, levels of voting, that if you'd ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."

Eric Lach: "Before the plague came, I had it made": Trump strikes a doubtful note in Pennsylvania.

Nancy LeTourneau: Fox News may be heading towards an epic election-night showdown. Starts: "Donald Trump has made it clear that he plans to declare victory on election night. He'll do it when the returns are primarily based on in-person voting from that day." So it will be interesting to see whether early media coverage gives him any encouragement, especially Fox. My impression is that while Fox hosts and guests will say anything, Fox's polling operation is fairly honest. News organizations don't project state winners until they have data to back up their modeled expectations, and if the data doesn't confirm, or they're missing significant data, they hold back. The big one this year is how much advance voting there is, how quickly it's reported (some states count mail-in ballots that arrive several days after election day), and whether it skews differently from in-person voting. Nobody knows the answer to that now, and won't until late. Trump's big hope for an early lead comes from Indiana and Kentucky, where polls close early and counting is very fast. In 2016, I expected IN/KY to go to Trump, but was disturbed early in the evening by his margins there. Still, if his early returns there don't top 2016, he won't have much ground to claim a win on. (According to 538, Trump is +10.6 in IN, +19.2 in KY, and that's based on nationwide polling that shows Trump -9.1; if Trump can win the electoral college while finishing -4 in the popular vote, which is pretty close to the built-in bias, he'd need to win IN +16 and KY +24. The median state right now is Pennsylvania, which is Biden +5.5, suggesting that Trump actually needs to shift more voters. BTW, 538 has a video explaining some of this: Will we know the winner on election night? Pay attention to these states. This indicates that they at least have some idea of how quickly various states will report results, but their tool is fairly crude, and not equipped to, for instance, handicap the election based on actual vs. expected results in arbitrary states, like IN/KY.)

Eric Levitz:

  • New poll confirms that high youth turnout would doom Trump: "Voters under 35 back Biden in 41 states; in Texas and Georgia, young voters oppose Trump by roughly 20 points.

  • 3 reasons Trump lost the final presidential debate:

    1. Trump is too immersed in the Fox News Cinematic Universe to communicate clearly with people who live outside of it.
    2. Trump claimed ownership of some of the GOP's least popular policies for no reason.
    3. The fact that Trump lacks anything resembling human empathy led him to defend his administration orphaning 545 immigrant children -- by emphasizing how clean their facilities were on the day of a photo op.

    Levitz concludes:

    It is possible that there are millions of moderate voters who want to support Donald Trump, but first needed to see him demonstrate his opposition to the wind power, commitment to deftly executing photo ops of migrant children he effectively orphaned, and make cryptic references to Hunter Biden's laptop. But that doesn't seem very likely.

Harold Meyerson: How many self-deceptions can our President sustain? "Lincoln's successor? The environment's pal? Are there any swing voters who believe this stuff?"

German Lopez: Trump on Covid-19: "I take full responsibility. It's not my fault." With Trump, the buck never stops.

Erin Mansfield/Josh Salman/Dinah Voyles Pulver: Trump's campaign made stops nationwide. Coronavirus cases surged in his wake in at least five places.

Joel Mathis: The Trump administration has surrendered to the pandemic.

Nicole Narea: Trump showed no regret over family separations during the presidential debate.

Tina Nguyen: The MAGAverse tries to summon another Clinton-FBI moment: "The ingredients are the same: a seized laptop, leaked emails. But this time MAGA adherents are sourcing the ingredients and hoping the FBI takes it up."

Ella Nilsen: CNN's debate fact-check laid out a "bombardment of dishonesty" from Trump.

Timothy Noah: Lesley Stahl blew her chance to eviscerate Trump: "The 60 Minutes interview may have outraged the president, but in truth he got off easy."

JC Pan:

  • The working class goes missing from yet another debate.

  • The cruelty of Washington's cynical stimulus war: "The drawn-out stimulus negotiations, which have left the public hanging out to dry, represent the worst of our political system." Still, I think Pan is rash in blaming the system. The Cares Act passed quickly because the stock market was crashing and business was panicking, so they were willing to go along with Democrats' ideas, like the $600 extra added to normally inadequate unemployment compensation checks. Once the stock market bounced back, Republicans lost interest in how the recession impacted regular people, and started looking for ways to squeeze workers harder. Meanwhile. it was the Democrats who were actually trying to be responsible about propping up the collapsed economy. Meanwhile, all Trump's done has been to issue some phony executive orders, and lie a lot. Can you really blame Pelosi and Shumer for negotiating for the best interest of most Americans? That may look bad for "the system," but it's not nearly as bad as unilateral, dictatorial Republican power would be.

Martin Pengelly: Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump threaten to sue Lincoln Project: "Anti-Trump Republicans' Times Square billboards accuse advisers of showing 'indifference' to Americans suffering amid pandemic."

Lili Pike: Swing-state Pennsylvanians are divided on fracking. Here's why.

Ed Pilkington/Martin Pengelly: As election day nears, what final dirty tricks could Trump turn to?

Andrew Prokop:

Frank Rich: Biden makes the strongest case yet for his presidency.

Corey Robin: The gonzo constitutionalism of the American right. Robin reduced his piece to three points in Crooked Timber:

  1. The right used to be thought of as a "three-legged stool" made up of economic libertarians, statist Cold Warriors, and cultural traditionalists. Whether that characterization was accurate, it expressed an understanding of the right as a political entity capable of creating hegemony throughout society. That is no longer the case. Today, the right's three-legged stool is an artifact, a relic, of counter-majoritarian state institutions: the Electoral College, the Senate, and the courts.
  2. However undemocratic these three institutions may be, they are eminently constitutional. The most potent source of the right's power is neither fascism nor authoritarianism; it is gonzo constitutionalism.
  3. Should the Democrats win the White House and the Senate come November, they will have to engage in a major project of norm erosion just to enact the most basic parts of their platform. Should they do so -- eliminating the filibuster, say, for the sake of achieving voting rights for all citizens -- we will see that norm erosion is not how democracies die but how they are born.

Aaron Rupar:

Michael Scherer/Josh Dawsey: Trump bets on a 2016 replay, but faces a changed landscape.

Dylan Scott: Trump on Supreme Court opportunity to overturn Obamacare: "I hope they end it".

Walter Shapiro: The righteous anger of Joe Biden: "Next to a babbling, often incomprehensible president, Biden did what he needed to do in the final debate."

Alex Shephard: In memoriam: The Trump pivot: "The president may win some points for shouting less than he did in the first debate. But don't act like he's changed."

Katie Shepherd: A Colorado landlord allegedly threatened to double rents if Biden is elected: 'If Trump wins, we all win'. Translation: Republicans are bastards and bullies, and if you don't do as you're told, they're going to punish you. Reality: if this jerk could get away with doubling rents, he'd have done it already; then threaten you again.

Matt Shuham: Trump's last hurrah was saturated with racist appeals.

David Sirota: At the debate last night, Biden finally distanced himself from the GOP's austerity talking points.

Isaac Stanley-Becker/Tony Romm: Fearful calls flood election offices as Trump attacks mail-in voting, threatening participation in GOP strongholds.

Emily Stewart:

  • Undecided voters explain themselves. Watching a group of "undecided" voter watch the first Trump-Biden debate, the only conclusion I could come to was that undecidedness is less a centrist ideology than an identity. All of them agreed that Trump was horrible, but none were willing to commit to voting for or against him. As the article notes, there are fewer undecideds this year than in 2016, when the "undecided" vote ultimately broke hard for Trump.

  • "They're all Americans": What Biden gets about the pandemic that Trump doesn't: "When we treat the coronavirus like a state problem, America loses."

Daniel Strauss: The final Trump-Biden presidential debate: five key takeaways.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: A deftly moderated debate bottles Trump.

Alex Ward: How the last Trump-Biden debate played on Fox News.

Matthew Yglesias:

Tom Zoellner: Trumpism ate Martha McSally's brain: "Why Arizona may be sending two Democrats to the Senate for the first time in 70 years." Ooh, I know that answer: Henry Ashurst and Carl Hayden.

Still More on Donald Trump

Kate Aronoff: ExxonMobil's real quid pro quo with the government: "Trump suggested he could extort oil executives for campaign donations. The truth is more troubling."

Donald Trump didn't actually give Exxon drilling permits in exchange for $25 million in campaign donations. He just wants you to know that he could, if he wanted to. That was the message behind a viral clip of the president at a rally on Monday, in which he said he'd "call the head of Exxon," and say, "How are you doing, how's energy coming? When are you doing the exploration? Oh, you need a couple of permits, huh? . . . You know, I'd love you to send me $25 million for the campaign." He could say that.

Adam Cancryn/Dan Diamond: An angry Azar floats plans to oust FDA's Hahn: "Fights over vaccine standards have created an unbridgeable divide within HHS, officials said, but the White House is unlikely to approve any changes until after the election."

Russ Choma:

  • How Trump got away with hiding his Chinese business.

  • Donald Trump's campaign is running on fumes. He still hasn't cut the check he promised.

    Despite raising around $1 billion with his partners in the Republican Party since 2017, Trump is struggling to attract donations in the homestretch. In September, when his fundraising should have been reaching a crescendo, he pulled in just $81 million. . . . So, Trump is in a hole. What's he going to do about it? Unlike in 2016, when he gave around $55 million to fund his primary campaign, he hasn't provided a dime of his own money to the campaign yet this election cycle. Despite the promise he made in September and reports that he planned to fund his campaign to the tune of $100 million, he's not likely to contribute much at this point, if for no other reason than he probably can't afford to.

TJ Coles: How Trump killed 220,000 Americans: the first three months of covid. Section heds:

  • January: "It will all work out well"
  • February: "Very much under control"
  • March: "Just stay calm. It will go away"

Josh Dawsey/Rosaline S Helderman/David A Farenthold: How Trump abandoned his pledge to 'drain the swamp'. Subheds:

  • 'I know the system': When Trump launched his presidential bid, he distinguished himself from rivals for the Republican nomination by saying he would fund his own campaign, eschewing the support of donors who he said corrupted the political system by seeking favors in exchange for their contributions. . . . He ultimately reported spending $66 million of his own money on his winning campaign, only a small portion of the more than $564 million he raised by the end of 2016.
  • Donor pitches
  • A lobbying loophole
  • Backed by foreign lobbyists [Brian Ballard, Elliot Broidy, Paul Manafort] Last year, ProPublica found that at least 33 former Trump administration official shad found ways to essentially lobby after leaving government, despite the supposed five-year ban on such activities.

Matt Ford: Trump's scorched-earth war against federal employees.

Martin Longman: The curse of the Trump moneymen.

Dylan Matthews: Is Trump a fascist? 8 experts weigh in. "Call him a kleptocrat, an oligarch, a xenophobe, a racist, even an authoritarian. But he doesn't quite fit the definition of a fascist." Author surveyed Robert Paxton, Matthew Feldman, Stanley Payne, Roger Griffin, Sheri Berman, Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Jason Brownlee, and Jason Stanley. FWIW, I've read relevant books by Paxton and Stanley, and I'm in the middle of one by Berman. Historians tend to get very particular about fascism, so it's hard to get them to apply the label to situations that vary in significant ways. On the other hand, anyone who grew up with deeper left-wing political roots will be highly attuned to motifs, airs, and mores redolent of fascism, because those are the warnings signs of your most dangerous enemies. To my nose, Trump reeks of fascism. I have no doubt that if you could transport Trump and/or his followers to Germany or Italy in the 1920s and 1930s they'd be totally at home with Hitler and Mussolini. Still, in America today they have to adjust their course to the very different political and historical terrain. It is, for instance, not nearly as easy to promote racism and military expansion now than it was during the heyday of European imperialism. I used to think that one difference between classic fascists and Trump was how the former's war trauma made them crave violence, but increasing numbers of Trump's followers have done just that. I don't know whether it helps anyone who isn't familiar with the history of fascism to call Trump a fascist -- a epithet that ignorant right-wingers like Jonah Goldberg and Dinesh D'Souza have stripped of all meaning -- especially when, as all eight writers show here, there are many more damning labels that easily apply to Trump.

Ed Pilkington: Parents of 545 children still not found three years after Trump separation policy.

Eyal Press: Trump's Labor Secretary is a wrecking ball aimed at workers: On Eugene Scalia, "a cunning lawyer committed to dismantling regulation, is weakening one employee protection after another."

Sean Rameswaram/Lauren Katz: A guide to the Trump administration's biggest scandals, accomplishments, and policies: A series of five podcasts looking back on the eon since Trump's inauguration.

Lisa Rein/Josh Dawsey/Toluse Olorunnipa: Trump's historic assault on the civil service was four years in the making.

President Trump's extraordinary directive allowing his administration to weed out career federal employees viewed as disloyal in a second term is the product of a four-year campaign by conservatives working from a little-known West Wing policy shop.

Soon after Trump took office, a young aide hired from the Heritage Foundation with bold ideas for reining in the sprawling bureaucracy of 2.1 million came up with a blueprint. Trump would hold employees accountable, sideline their labor unions and give the president more power to hire and fire them, much like political appointees. . . .

The result this week threatens to be the most significant assault on the nonpartisan civil service in its 137-year history: a sweeping executive order that strips job protections from employees in policy roles across the government.

David Roberts: A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the climate. Didn't the first term already do that? Don't you mean a second term would be even worse than the first one?

Jamil Smith: How Donald rump talks about black people: "The president's patronizing, white-savior talk will likely stop if he loses, and that should motivate us all.

Peter Wade: Trump official planned to give Santa Claus performers early access to Covid-19 vaccine.

Mary L Trump: Psychiatrists know what's wrong with my uncle. Let them tell voters. Trump's niece, author of Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, is a PhD psychologist. Page led me to a Sept. 22, 2017 link by Carlos Lozada: Is Trump mentally ill? Or is America? Psychiatrists weigh in. It's a review of three books: Brandy X Lee, ed: The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, Allen Frances: Twilight of American Sanity, and Kurt Andersen: Fantasyland. Lozada has a recent book, What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era, which no doubt has a chapter expanding on this book review. I've read Frances' book, where he argues that it's America that's insane. One famous definition of insanity is repeating some act in the expectation that it will turn out differently. Electing Trump to a second term would prove that case damn conclusively.

Carl Zimmer: The Trump administration shut a vaccine safety office last year. What's the plan now?

Supreme Court Hearings and Other Injustices

Amy Coney Barrett is now one step away from becoming a Supreme Court justice, as the Senate voted to end debate, with a vote on Monday, which looks like a foregone conclusion. Democracy may be coming to the USA, but the Federalist Society is well-positioned to stop it.

Ronald Brownstein: What the Rush to confirm Amy Coney Barrett is really about: "The Republican Party wants to shield itself from the growing Democratic coalition."

Masha Gessen: The ultimate "bullshit job": "It is difficult to find a better word than 'bullshit' to describe Lindsey Graham's closing statement on the third day of Amy Coney Barrett's Senate hearings." Essay expands to cover much more, citing Hannah Arendt (who "defined ideology as a single premise taken to its logical extreme and then used to explain the past and determine the future") and Ronald Reagan's "joke" about the horror of government help, before landing on the late David Graeber's rant about "bullshit jobs." Key paragraph:

We have gone from the strange spectacle of Reagan, the leader of the free world, stating that his government's actions are fundamentally suspect, to the even stranger spectacle of Trump, who openly dislikes his job, avoids doing it, and refuses to accept its responsibilities. Yet he desperately desires to keep his job and so, it seems, do most Republican elected officials. These are people who continually attack "government," in which they work, and "Washington," where they live, but they will apparently do most anything to keep their places in both. Imagine having to wage a long and gruelling campaign in order to land a job you believe is deserving only of scorn; imagine then spending the bulk of your working hours asking people for money so you can keep this job.

Gessen eventually returned to the hearings:

Republican senators, in other words, asked bullshit questions. Barrett laughed gamely, indulged their bullshit, and gave uniformly bullshit answers, both to bullshit questions and to substantive ones. She gave bullshit answers even when she appeared to be called upon merely to affirm the existence of a statute or a Constitutional norm. Barrett surely doesn't think that her future position on the Supreme Court is a bullshit job; Senate Republicans don't think that packing the courts with conservatives is bullshit work, either. But, like the people who are rushing her onto the bench, Barrett does seem to believe that the nomination and confirmation process are bullshit -- she shares the Trump Republican Party's contempt for the norms and processes of the government in which she has risen so far, so fast.

Linda Greenhouse: The Supreme Court we need.

Angus King Jr/Heather Cox Richardson: Amy Coney Barrett's judicial philosophy doesn't hold up to scrutiny.

Stephanie Mencimer: Amy Coney Barrett is the least experienced Supreme Court nominee in 30 years.

Alex Shephard: Joe Biden and the return of the dreaded bipartisan commission: "The Democrat's proposed commission on court reform is an elaborate way of dodging the court-packing question. It also bodes ill for his presidency." The last big "bipartisan commission" was Simpson-Bowles, under Obama, where even the Democrat was a deficit hawk, agreeing to austerity moves that hobbled Obama's response to the recession he inherited. And sure, Obama did make significant progress at reducing the deficit, only to have Trump blow it wide open again with his tax cut. Certainly it would be nice to get a bipartisan consensus on critical issues, but the only case where effectively there is one is on America's military posture around the world, and that consensus has been bad for Americans, and has helped cripple the Democratic Party (perhaps the reason Republicans are so gung ho). One can imagine that there may be some minor reforms that both parties could agree to, like term limits for Justices, but current Republican majorities make even that unlikely (even though term limits has been a talking point for Republicans since Newt Gingrich put them in his "contract on America." But the real problem isn't something Republicans have any reason to compromise on. "Court packing" is fact, something Republicans have been working diligently at since 1970, when Nixon started nominating racists to the Supreme Court to overturn the New Deal and Brown v Board of Education. Especially since 2000, Mitch McConnell has played the Senate rules game to keep Obama nominees from being confirmed, while stocking up on Bush and Trump picks. Big wins in November could help Democrats start to roll back the damage, but with normal attrition it will take 20-30 years to restore the balance in favor of constitutional rights that some of us grew up expecting. Republicans will fight this rebalancing tooth and nail, as can already be seen with their hysterical reaction to Democratic revival of the idea of expanding the Supreme Court -- something last proposed by FDR in the 1930s, and derided then as "court-packing." I don't see anything happening on this front until Democrats win more seats, and it becomes even more obvious how out of step the Courts are with the wishes of the voters. Many of us can clearly see this coming, but since Trump won in 2016 the Courts have often stopped his most outrageous acts. Not often enough, and the trendline isn't good, but I'd venture that most people aren't aware of the problem yet. And while it's possible that the Courts will follow public opinion -- as they started to do in the late-1930s -- in which case the problem may not be as grave as we fear. I doubt it, but we need to let it play out a bit more. As in the 1930s, the threat of restructuring might help (remember "the switch in time that saved nine"?). I could even imagine putting a couple of token Republicans on a commission that winds up defending justice in America. But one that is half-controlled by the Federalist Society won't help at all.

Li Zhou: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to advance Amy Coney Barrett's nomination -- with no Democrats present: "The committee vote on Barrett's nomination underscored Republicans' disregard for the rules."

Around the World

Kate Aronoff: The socialist win in Bolivia and the new era of lithium extraction: "An apparent victory for Evol Morales's Movement Toward Socialism shows that tomorrow's green energy won't look much like the old oil empires."

Michael Arria: Trump administration set to label human rights groups 'antisemitic' for criticizing Isarel. Specifically Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam. Refers to Nahal Toosi: US weighs labeling leading human rights groups 'anti-Semitic'.

Jakob Reimann: Arms, oil and Iran -- Israel's role in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Alex Ward: The US just brokered another peace deal for Israel, this time with Sudan: "At its core, it looks like the deal is really a trade where the US gives Sudan financial help in exchange for recognizing Israel."

Mark Weisbrot: Bolivians reclaim their democracy: "The overwhelming MAS election victory is a repudiation of the racist coup regime as well as of the Trump administration and the OAS, which helped install it."

Philip Weiss: Oren warns US Jews to 'be aware' Biden will defy Israel on Palestine and Iran issues. Israel's former ambassador to the US tries to influence America's presidential election. "Israeli Jews support Trump overwhelmingly; but Oren's warning is likely falling on deaf ears in the US."

Other Matters

Sam Adler-Bell: How police unions bully politicians.

Bryce Covert:

  • The pandemic sent Americans' health care coverage into free fall: "Between February and May, more than 5.4 million people lost their health insurance coverage." If we had Medicare-for-All, that number would have been zero.

  • How OSHA went AWOL during the pandemic. "Six months into the crisis, the agency had issued citations to just two employers." On the other hand:

    Across the country, at least 491 meatpacking plants have had confirmed cases of COVID, with a no fewer than 41,167 meatpacking workers testing positive, according to the Food & Environment Reporting Network, a nonprofit news organization. At least 193 workers have died.

    Since the pandemic began, OSHA, whose mission is "to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women," reports that it has received over 10,000 complaints from workers concerned about a lack of protections against the coronavirus.

Elisabeth Egan: Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the presidential race and wrote a best seller: The book is called Trust, which is a key concept, especially given how Trump has destroyed trust in American political institutions -- for that matter, his deregulation of industries will likely do immense harm to the perception that we can trust companies to act responsibly.

Shirin Ghaffary/Rani Molla: Why the US government is suing Google: "The Department of Justice says the company's anti-competitive business practices harm Americans."

Jenny Gross: Far-right groups are behind most US terrorist attacks, report finds. You mean the groups with racists and guns?

David Harvey: Socialists must be the champions of freedom. Extract from Harvey's new book, The Anti-Capitalist Chronicles.

Sean Illing: Trump exploited a broken press. Here's how to fix it. Interview with Jay Rosen, who says:

Another part of the answer is that "flood the zone" is a propaganda method. It's crude but well-suited to an age of media abundance.

In the Russian setting, it's called the firehose of falsehood. The most important feature is the constant production of falsehoods in every channel, every platform -- mixed with a little truth. Another key feature is that you don't care if the truth claims are contradictory. There's no need to be consistent. You use every tool you can. You throw out multiple crappy arguments rather than make one good one.

One of the goals of this method is to overwhelm and dishearten people rather than persuade them. It's about driving them from the public arena, getting them to give up on efforts to know the truth. The firehose of falsehood is very hard to oppose. It's difficult to know what to do in response.

Umair Irfan: Colorado is fighting its largest wildfire in history. Other massive blazes are close behind. "three of the four largest fires in Colorado history have ignited since July."

Roge Karma: The police shooting of Marcellis Stinnette and Tafara Williams, an unarmed black couple, explained.

Christopher Ketcham: Has the Forest Service been making wildfires worse? "The logging industry has long promoted science suggesting logging suppresses fire. A lot of recent research disagrees."

Nancy Kurshan: I was in the room where it happened: One woman's perspective on The Trial of the Chicago 7. More on the movie:

Nicholas Lemann: The Republican identity crisis after Trump. Long article, may be worth thinking about later rather than sooner, but for now not a topic I care much about. As far as I'm concerned, Republicans can shrivel up from shame and crawl into a dark hole never to be seen again, but as long as they don't, at least they'll be available as an enemy that can warm your hearts to even the most lacklustre Democrat. I think it's clear now that Democrats made a huge mistake in the 1980s when they decided that the way back to power was by appealing to business as the party of efficiency and growth. Sure, that pitch got Clinton and Obama elected president, but did little for the rest of the party. And sure, business prospered under Democrats -- much more, in fact, than it had during Republican terms -- but the Democrats failed to win over the cold hearts of the rich. After all, while Democrats helped the rich get richer, they also believed that others would also benefit. On the other hand, Republicans didn't care if their policies hurt the working poor. Since 2016, Democrats have had to rethink their assumptions, and many of the have decided that the way forward is to focus not on raising money but on inspiring votes. The better they do that, the better they deliver their promises, the more they'll control their future. Meanwhile, Republicans have given up on appealing to the majority, focusing instead on scamming the system. Maybe if they lose bad enough, they'll start to reconsider policies that people might actually vote for. But even if Trump loses, which seems very likely, don't expect Republicans to learn much soon. They'll feel cheated first, because they feel so entitled to their own cheating, and they can't even fathom the absurdity of their conceits. The bigger question is what happens to the Democrats after the election. If Biden loses, the establishment wing of the Democratic party will be discredited, and the Party will lurch hard left. If he wins, I expect Biden will restore the Clinton-Obama establishment, but with an eye to delivering enough progress leftward to keep the left from breaking into open revolt. If he can navigate the middle ground, he can be very successful, and the left will revert to being something we aspire to, rather than the core of resistance against the right. Biden can compromise with corporate interests, but one thing he cannot afford to do is to let the Trump Republicans off the hook for the many injuries and crimes they have committed. The unity and coherence of the Democratic Party is based not on shared beliefs -- other than a deep-seated belief in liberal democracy -- but on a common enemy. As Republicans are unlikely to change quickly following defeat, Biden needs to exploit memory of Trump to maintain a common front.

Steven Levitsky/Daniel Ziblatt: End minority rule: "Either we become a truly multiracial democracy or we cease to be a democracy at all."

German Lopez:

Peter Maass: When we talk about Fox News, we need to talk about the Murdoch family too: "The Murdochs own Fox News but rarely get the scrutiny they deserve for bankrolling racism and hatred."

James A Morone: Nothing new: How US politics turned tribal, from George Washington to Donald Trump.

Alex Pareene: Liberals are losing the journalism wars: "As major media outlets erect paywalls, conservative publishers are flooding the country with free right-wing propaganda paid for by Republicans."

Kim Phillips-Fein: The metamorphosis: The making of the unequal city. Review of Lizabeth Cohen: Savings America's Cities: Ed Logue and the Struggle to Renew Urban America in the Suburban Age.

John Quiggin: Too cheap to meter: "Ultra-low interest rates have fundamentally changed the arithmetic of renewable energy."

Ingrid Robeyns: Why publish books open access? Something to consider. OBP's catalog is here.

Alexander Sammon: The collapse of long-term care insurance: "Attempts to have the private market manage support and services for the elderly or people with disabilities have utterly failed."

Gene Seymour: Baseball's race problem: I soured on baseball in the 1990s, and can't even tell you who won he World Series this year (if, indeed, it has been decided), so I don't share Seymour's concerns for the future of the sport/business. But baseball did mean a lot to me from 1957 at least through the 1964 pennant, and from 1976 into the 1990s. Following a cousin, I was a NY Yankees fan, and I moved to New York in 1976 as my team regained its winning ways. But as early as I can remember, I was hugely impressed with black baseball stars (even when the only black on my favorite team was 1962 MVP Elston Howard). Three stars from the 1964 World Series died in the last few weeks: Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Whitey Ford. The St. Louis Cardinals were the last team in the National League to integrate, but black stars led them back to a pennant they hadn't competed for since 1946: the picture shows Gibson, Brock, and Curt Flood (but not Bill White). For fans of my age, the best thing that ever happened to baseball was integration.

Libby Watson: There are no good Republicans for a Biden White House: "If the best prospects he can dig up are reclamation projects like John Kasich and Meg Whitman, then just recruit Democrats."

Laura Weiss: Confronting the deep roots of violence in El Salvador: "Robert Lovato's Unforgetting explores the traumatic history of a country torn apart by wars and gangs -- and the dangers of not facing the past."

Lizzie Widdicombe: What can you do if Trump stages a coup? I doubt this will be a problem, but Trump has invited us to prepare for the worst.

Li Zhou: Why a Senate vote on stimulus has failed, again.


PS: This is longer than any of the last five Weekend Roundups, but still only the 3rd longest in 2020.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Daily Log

Cooking journal. Shopped yesterday, going to Dillons (Rock/Central) and N&J. Had to go to the latter to get phyllo dough. Also picked up dinner: gyro sandwich, stuffed cabbage rolls, stuffed grape leaves, baklava. Had a relaxed evening, figuring I'd have all of Wednesday and a few hours Thursday to cook.

Wednesday:

  • Got up around 1PM. Had breakfast, read paper, worked on jigsaw puzzle. Music: Satta Masagana.

  • Music: Finger Poppin' and Stompin' Feet. Put eggplant (Japanese -- had them leftover, and looked ok for zaalouk) into oven to roast. Snapped green beans. Cut lamb into cubes mixed marinade, stored in refrigerator.

  • Music: Zaire Choc! Burnt my thumb reaching for the eggplant. It's going to hurt the rest of the dinner. Started cooking fasulye (green beans with onion and tomato). Ate a little lunch.

  • Music: The Blasters: Collection. Zaalouk (eggplant/tomato), fasulye (green beans) done. Cut carrots into matchsticks, and started to boil them. Cooked spinach.

  • Music: Millennium Funk Party. Finished carrots, spinach (not much as one bunch was only 1/4 the 2 lbs recipe called for). Heated up the leftover duck and cashews for dinner. Walked the dog.

  • Music: This Is Ska. Mixed the cake and put it in the oven (Mom's coconut cake). Will wait until tomorrow to make the icing.

  • Music: The Best of Louis Jordan. Started working on the bstilla (onions). Cake looked perfect when it came out of the oven. Then after I slipped one layer out of the pan, I tried turning it over and it broke in half. Will patch it back together and bury it in icing, but that was real stupid. Diced and salted cucumber, and made the rest of what I need for mast va khiar. Will add the yogurt later.

  • Music: Leonard Cohen: Live in London. Onion-chicken filling for bstilla done, almonds too. Couldn't assemble and bake because the phyllo is still frozen. Mixed mast va khiar (cucumber-yogurt). Pitted and marinated olives for orange-onion-olive salad. I decided not to try to make Turkish pide bread: recipe called for 550F, but I think my stoves max out at 500F. Plan B is to use store-bought pita, which I picked up at N&J yesterday.

  • Music: Professor Longhair: Crawfish Fiesta. Got interrupted and watched some TV with Laura, so restarted the record. Made a flourless chocolate cake. Phyllo dough thawed out, so I assembled the bstilla, then baked it. I used the size baking dish they called for, but mine was deeper (something I've used for quiche), so pie was sunken a bit in the middle. With the egg wash, browned up real nicely. Had leftover phyllo, so mixed up a half-recipe of feta-cream cheese filling, and rolled some cigars.

  • Music: Charles Mingus: At Carnegie Hall, put on at 1:51 AM. Should probably just clean up (while the cigars bake).

Things left to do Thursday, for dinner at 4:30, so not muh time after I get up:

  • Fire up grill, for lamb cubes and long peppers. Could also grill zucchini and/or eggplant for additional unscheduled dishes.
  • Make tomato sauce and yogurt sauce for yogurtlu kebap (lamb and pita bread). Toast bread. Melt butter and assemble.
  • Make cucumber-mint salad.
  • Make onion-orange-olive salad (olives already marinated; need to slice and salt the onion, before cutting oranges and final assembly).
  • Make coconut cake icing, and put on cake, with coconut.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34222 [34179] rated (+43), 215 [213] unrated (+2).

Nominally a day late, given the late finish of Weekend Roundup. The delay pushed the rated count over 40, and contributed most of the unpacking below. Before that I had felt little urgency to break into the promo queue. I've been scrounging for things to listen to, and making short work of most of what I've found. I've heard the top 83 records in my metacritic file. Top one I haven't bothered with is Deftones: Ohms, followed by albums by Flaming Lips, Killers, Lemon Twigs, and Sorry -- a high B+ from any of those would be a big surprise. Caught up with eight Sunnyside jazz releases instead, four at B+(**), four lower.

Robert Christgau published his October 2020: Consumer Guide last week. I previously had albums by Public Enemy, Cornershop, and Dua Lipa at A-. He only concurred on PE. He rated Dramamrama, Ashley McBryde, and Dawn Oberg higher than I did. A recheck of the former suggests I wasn't paying much attention when I discarded it. His choice oldie was a compilation of early Skip James that I have at B (but Robert Santelli ranked as the 10th best blues album of all time). As I recall, the sound was atrocious. I should do some more research on him; e.g., Devil Got My Woman (1967), an A- for Christgau, number 45 for Santelli. I have a later compilation of James' 1966-68 Vanguard sides, Blues From the Delta, at A-. Meanwhile, the one I couldn't find was Hanging Tree Guitars. Well, also the Island rocksteady compilation. It's probably competitive with Trojan's Let's Do Rocksteady: The Story of Rocksteady 1966-68, an A- in my book.

One more week left in October. I'm going to cook a scaled down, socially distanced version of my annual birthday dinner this week. Did the shopping today, so I'm set to start cooking tomorrow, to serve on Wednesday. Moved it up a few days due to weather, so I'll wind up turning 70 in isolation, probably with leftovers. Nothing new this year. Turkish main dish (yogurtlu kebap), with Moroccan mezze -- struck me as a better fit than the Turkish ones -- and the traditional family birthday cake. Rated count should be down next week, as I'll spend a couple days playing golden oldies. Then it'll be time to knuckle down on Weekend Roundup. At this point, I'd just as soon cooked on the weekend and skipped the post, but weather broke the other way.

Seems like a lot of deaths last week. Among musicians: Spencer Davis, Toshinori Kondo, Jose Padilla. More HOF baseball players: Joe Morgan, after Whitey Ford (previous week).

I don't follow her, but I was pleased to see a tweet by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) detailing specs on a homebuilt composer (I added prices from Newegg, just for my curiosity):

  • Intel Core i7-10700K [CPU, $385]
  • Zotac GeForce RTX 2060 Super [6GB video card, $340]
  • G.Skill TridentZ RGB 32GB [RAM, $180]
  • Samsung 970 EVO Plus 1TB M.2 NVMe main [SSD storage, $170]
  • 6TB SSD storage [not sure, don't know of any 6TB SSD storage, but you could use Samsung 860 EVO 4TB + 2TB, $910, or you could get a 8TB deal for $908; another possibility is a 6TB SATA hard drive, $280]
  • Corsair iCU H100i AIO [water cooled radiator, $190]
  • NZXT H510i case [$100]

Not specified here is a power supply, probably 850W or higher [$150+], and most importantly a motherboard ($200 or less). My latest build had considerably more RAM (128 GB), but I spent less on CPU and video card. I only bought the M.2 SSD storage device (1TB), and I've never spent on water cooling. Still, I'm impressed: you get at least twice as much bang for the buck by building your own, but most people find the task daunting. Better still if you put Linux on it, instead of wasting more $$$ on Microsoft, and more still on commercial applications software.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Courtney Marie Andrews: Old Flowers (2020, Fat Possum): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Beasley: MONK'estra Plays John Beasley (2020, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Black Thought: Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane and Abel (2020, Republic): [r]: A-
  • Geof Bradfield/Ben Goldberg/Dana Hall Trio: General Semantics (2020, Delmark): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sylvie Courvoisier Trio: Free Hoops (2019 [2020], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Cullman: Winter Clothes (2020, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Daversa Quintet: Cuarentena: With Family at Home (2020, Tiger Turn): [r]: B+(**)
  • Josephine Davies: Sartori: How Can We Wake? (2020, Whirlwind): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sam Decker: Shrove (2020, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doves: The Universal Want (Heavenly): [r]: B
  • Andy Fusco: Remembrance (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joel Futterman: Intervals (2018 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Osvaldo Golijov/The Silkroad Ensemble: Falling Out of Time (2020, In a Circle): [cd]: B
  • Benny Green: Benny's Crib (2020, Sunnyside): [r]: B
  • Clay Harper: Dirt Yard Street (2020, Casino Music): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Conrad Herwig: The Latin Side of Horace Silver (2020, Savant): [r]: B+(*)
  • Keleketia: Keleketia! (2020, Ahead of Our Time): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Juliet Kurtzman/Pete Malinverni: Candlelight: Love in the Time of Cholera (2020, Saranac): [cd]: B [11-13]
  • Ron Miles: Rainbow Sign (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • OM [Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer]: It's About Time (2020, Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman & Arcado String Trio: Deep Resonance (2018 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pinegrove: Marigold (2020, Rough Trade): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dafnis Prieto Sextet: Transparency (2020, Dafnison Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Terje Rypdal: Conspiracy (2019 [2020], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Angelica Sanchez & Marilyn Crispell: How to Turn the Moon (2019 [2020], Pyroclastic): [cd]: A-
  • The Bobby Spellman Nonet: Revenge of the Cool (2020, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tricky: Fall to Pieces (2020, False Idols): [r]: B+(*)
  • Diego Urcola Quartet Featuring Paquito D'Rivera: El Duelo (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Slow Pieces for Aki (2019 [2020], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Doug Webb: Apples & Oranges (2020, Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(***)
  • Michael Wolff: Bounce (2020, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Glenn Zaleski: The Question (2020, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Denny Zeitlin: Live at Mezzrow (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • On the Road: A Tribute to John Hartford (2020, LoHi): [r]: B+(***)
  • Evan Parker/Agustí Fernandez: Tempranillo (1995 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ebo Taylor: Palaver (1980 [2019], BBE): [r]: B+(***)
  • TEST/Roy Campbell: TEST and Roy Campbell (1999 [2020], 577): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • John Hartford: RCA Country Legends (1967-70 [2001], Buddha): [r]: B+(***)
  • OM [Urs Leimgruber/Christy Doran/Bobby Burri/Fredy Studer]: A Retrospective (1976-20 [2006], ECM): [r]: A-
  • Toots and the Maytals: True Love (2004, V2): [r]: B+(***)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Dramarama: Color TV (2020, Pasadena): [r]: [was: B+(*)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rebecca Angel: For What It's Worth (Timeless Grooves)
  • Julian Gerstin: Littoral Zone (self-released)
  • Junk Magic: Compass Confusion (Pyroclastic) [10-30]
  • Andrew Renfroe: Dark Grey EP (self-released)
  • Scott Routenberg: Inside (Summit) [11-06]
  • Dayna Stephens: Right Now! Live at the Village Vanguard (Contagious Music, 2CD)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Posted this on Monday. It got too late to wrap it up on Sunday, and I hadn't finished looking for links in the usual places, let alone writing any sort of introduction. Got a late start on Saturday, after spending much of last week on two book posts: More Trump Books, and Book Roundup. Also upgraded my machine to Xubuntu 20.4, which has resulted in some breakage and emergency repairs (update removed some optional packages I rely on, and installed PHP 7.4, which broke some of my web pages -- if you notice more, please let me know). Music Week will also be delayed a day.

Table of contents:

Before we get too deep in the weeds, here are a few links that are essentially endorsements. I could collect hundreds of mainstream Biden endorsements, but these are specifically addressed to the left:

Laura and I filled out our ballots and mailed them in today. We both voted for Biden and Harris, for Barbara Bollier for Senate, Laura Lombard for the House (KS-4), Mary Ware (KS Senate), John Carmichael (KS House), and James Thompson (District 18 Judge), and other Democrats (in the races any ran for).

Of course, I urge all of you to vote, for Democrats as much as possible. It has never been more obvious that the American people need to rise up and repudiate the Republican Party and all that it stands for. I won't try to sum that up succinctly here. The reasons should be obvious from the rest of this post, and from the four years of weekly posts I've compiled as Trump Days [.odt format -- see note below]. OK, I will try one sentence: Republicans are committed to maintaining and extending the power of business elites, where some people are privileged and protected while others are consigned to relative poverty and injustice, stripped of rights and subject to violence. Donald Trump is merely the most careless and shameless Republican leader, but the conceit and ethic permeates the party, driving it to snatch power and try to lock it in perpetually, which is why democracy itself -- as Lincoln put it, "government of the people, by the people, for the people" -- is at risk this election. I really hate anything that smacks of melodrama, but this time those stakes are real. If you want to preserve the option that people might someday redirect government to establish justice and serve the people, you must vote Trump and as many Republicans as possible out of office now. Whatever faults and inadequacies Democratic Party candidates may have can be dealt with later.

Let me add that I think lots of people who vote Republican are decent and respectable people, and that I have a lot of respect for people who live their lives according to the conservative virtues of hard work and responsibility for their families and communities. I do think they've been cynically manipulated by the Party's vast propaganda network, especially to think that they're fundamentally distinct from and endangered by Democrats, liberals, and/or leftists, who differ mostly in their commitment to extending equal rights and privileges to everyone.

Note: ODT is the file format used by OpenOffice Writer, which is free software you can download and run on almost any computer you might have. The file format is public, so other non-free software like Microsoft Word (since 2007) can also read, display, and edit the files.


Supreme Court Hearings and Other Injustices

The Senate Judiciary Committee held its rubber-stamp hearings on Trump's nomination of Amy Coney Barrett this week, exposing Republican Senators as the hypocrites and opportunists you surely by now recognized them to be.

Kate Aronoff: This Supreme Court was designed to kill climate policies: "Polluters helped build the court's conservative majority. Would Democratic laws stand a chance against it?"

Donald B Ayer/Alan Charles Raul: Naked Republican hypocrisy is destroying trust in Supreme Court: Reagan, Bush lawyers. Not just the Court. Pretty much every institution they touch.

Jamelle Bouie: Which Constitution is Amy Coney Barrett talking about? "Her originalism ignores the significance of the second American Revolution." I've long thought that the charm of "originalism" for judges like Scalia is that it could mean whatever you wanted it to mean.

John Cassidy: The Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court hearings are an enlightening sham.

Fabiola Cineas: The Breonna Taylor case proves that prosecutors have too much power: "Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron didn't pursue murder charges for the cops who killed Breonna Taylor. Here's how that happened." Interview with Kami Chavis.

Ryan D Doerfler/Samuel Moyn: Making the Supreme Court safe for democracy: "Beyond packing schemes, we need to diminish the high court's power."

Jeannie Suk Gersen: How would Amy Coney Barrett rule as a Supreme Court justice?

Melissa Gira Grant: Amy Coney Barrett's gentle deceptions: "The Supreme Court nominee would have us believe she's just a vessel for the law, but her rise to conservative power tells the real story."

Rebecca Kirszner Katz: Dianne Feinstein made a mess of the Barrett hearings. There is a better way.

Simon Lazarus: The dishonesty of Amy Coney Barrett's "textualist" pose.

Christopher Leonard: Charles Koch's big bet on Barrett: "For almost 50 years, the multibillionaire has been pushing for a court unfriendly to regulation of the market. He may be on the brink of victory."

Nancy LeTourneau: Dark money interests are buying the Supreme Court. People tend to think that the political struggle over the Supreme Court is bound up with culture war, but most law suits are about money, and if you look into the dark money being pumped into promoting nominees like Barrett, you'll wind up seeing a healthy return on investment for right-wing judges.

Whitehouse ended his presentation by addressing what these dark money donors want from the court in return for their investment. While it's true that someone like Barrett was nominated to overturn the Affordable Care Act, Roe v Wade, and Obergefell v Hodges, that is hardly the only agenda. Whitehouse reviewed 80 Supreme Court cases since John Roberts became the Chief Justice that had these things in common:

  1. They were decided 5-4
  2. The 5-4 decision was partisan, with Roberts and the four justices nominated by Republicans in the majority
  3. There was an identifiable Republican donor interest in the case

In every case, the Republican donor interest prevailed. All of those cases were about power, Whitehouse explained, noting that they generally fit into four categories.

  1. Allowed unlimited and dark money in politics
  2. Knocked the civil jury system down
  3. Weakened regulatory agencies
  4. Suppressed the vote

Susannah Luthi: Not just Obamacare: How Supreme Court's conservative majority could remake American health care. Or unmake, or maybe demolish is the better word. Still, there is a reason to be doubtful (or is it hopeful?): ACA was the last-ditch conservative attempt to salvage an industry which had priced itself out of reach from the vast majority of Americans. Shrinking it, ripping off bandaids like Medicaid, hurts the industry's revenues, and further reveals the system to be horribly unfair and unjust. Republicans opposed ACA not because they had a better idea, but because they realized that its inherently flawed design could be exploited for political gain. At present, Biden and the "moderate" wing of the Democratic Party are still committed to making ACA work. If the court kills it, or wrecks it to the point of ineffectiveness, Democrats will have no choice but to adopt a more viable strategy, like Medicare-for-all. And if the Court kills that too, it'll be time to get a better Supreme Court.

Ruth Marcus: Republicans have no standing to complain about court-packing.

Josh Marshall: It's not 'court packing.' Don't be a moron and call it that.

Nick Martin: Mitch McConnell's election dreams are voters' waking nightmares.

Ian Millhiser:

Anna North: Why Republicans keep talking about Amy Coney Barrett's 7 kids. "Republicans are talking about Barrett's kids to make her sound empathetic." "They're also trying to paint liberals as anti-feminist."

Alex Pareene: Supreme Court justices are politicians, too: "And just like Republican politicians, the conservative justices are dedicated to preserving the right's minority rule."

Kate Riga: The long con that culminated with the Amy Coney Barrett nomination.

Aaron Rupar: Amy Coney Barrett refused to say if Trump can delay the election. The correct answer is he can't.

David Sirota/Andrew Perez/Walker Bragman: Amy Coney Barrett is the Supreme Court justice big oil needs. Well, certainly wants. Her father was a long-time attorney for Shell Oil, which has litigation pending before the Court.

Amy Davidson Sorkin: Amy Coney Barrett's silence is an expression of extremism.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: pray, grin and Barrett. "What I learned watching the Amy Coney Barrett hearings: Any Supreme Court precedent ACB won't discuss is one she's willing, if not eager, to overturn." Lots more here, including an item noting that insulin costs 10 times as much in the US as the OECD average, and that almost 5,000 people have died in prisons over the last 10 years while they were still awaiting trial. Also, this item I wasn't aware of:

In 1989, Reds' great Joe Morgan, who died this week, was racially profiled and falsely arrested at LAX. Then the cops lied about him becoming "violent." Morgan sued and won a $500K judgement against LAPD and $800K from City of LA. Morgan's case, along with Rodney King's beating, which happened shortly afterwards, helped rip the veil off of what was really going on inside the LAPD.

Li Zhou:

  • 5 key moments from day 3 of Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court hearing.

    • Barrett says she hasn't spoken out in support of the Affordable Care Act, though she's criticized past decisions upholding it
    • Barrett wouldn't say whether Griswold v. Connecticut was rightly decided, which other nominees have commented on in the past
    • Barrett wouldn't take a position on climate change
    • Barrett declined to comment on whether Trump could pardon himself
    • Lindsey Graham tried to appeal to Republican women
  • Amy Coney Barrett describes climate change as a "very contentious matter of public debate". For whatever it's worth, I don't think it matters what Barrett thinks about climate change, except inasmuch as it reflects on her intelligence and public morals. What does matter is whether she would use the Court to block legal efforts to address the problem. And that is just one example of many where she seems likely to put political interests above majority opinion. Of course, as long as Congress and the President are unwilling to take action against climate change, the Court has no bearing on the matter.

Campaigns and Elections

Trump pulled out of the second presidential debate, not because he was infected with coronavirus but because he refused to participate in a virtual town hall set up to prevent further infections. In place of the debate, both candidates held separate town halls, on different channels. The effect was widely commented on below. Trump has since been sinking in the polls, while scurrying around to "superspreader" events, his pace feverish, his dementia increasingly obvious. And as Trump has struggled, more Republicans down ballot have also slipped in the polls. Some of those races are touched on below, but I'm not all that interested into turning this column into a handicapping report.

Vox [Ella Nilsen, Zack Beauchamp, Emily Stewart, German Lopez, Dylan Scott, Jane Coaston]: 5 winners and 3 losers from the dueling Trump-Biden town halls: Winners: Joe Biden; Substance; FOMO [fear of missing out]; Savannah Guthrie; QAnon. Losers: Donald Trump; The individual mandate; Trump's purported toughness. A very rare win for a moderator.

Washington Monthly: Live blog: The Biden-Trump town halls.

Jake Bittle: The media's obsession with the mythical Republican swing voter.

Aaron Blake: Democrats' stunning fundraising.

Aaron Calvin: A desperate Trump rallies in Iowa as he cancels ads, loses ground. I don't see the quote here, but remember reading somewhere that Trump said that if he lost in November, he's never coming back to Iowa. I have trouble seeing that threat as reason to vote for him.

If he loses Iowa, it will be seen as a referendum on his national response to the coronavirus. Few states have embodied Trump's mandate to "not be afraid" of Covid-19 like Iowa has. Since the early days of the pandemic's spread through the United States, Iowa's unified Republican state government and particularly its governor have been lockstep with Trump, refusing to institute a statewide mask mandate and keeping masks optional for in-person learning. Iowa surpassed California in cases-per-million in early September and hasn't looked back.

Chas Danner: Trump is still targeting Governor Gretchen Whitmer after foiled kidnapping plot. Also:

David Edwards: Trump Jr says dad's 'next move' is to 'break up' the FBI: 'He has to get rid of these things'. Promises, promises.

Dan Froomkin: A dueling town halls upside: Media finally focuses on the wide gulf between Biden and Trump.

Amy Gardner: 'My people fought for the right to vote': With a surge of emotion, Black Americans rush to the polls.

Stanley B Greenberg: How Trump is losing his base: "Focus groups with working-class and rural voters show the deep health care crisis in America, and trouble for Trump's re-election." In general, Trump has been really awful for those parts of his base, but it's pretty arbitrary how that damage has hit individuals, and even those who have suffered have to be able to imagine an alternative, amid all the Trump lies and scapegoating. Another piece:

Jeff Greenfield: Dueling town halls revealed there's no substitute for tough questions.

Makena Kelly: Oracle founder donated $250,000 to Graham PAC in final days of TikTok deal.

Ezra Klein: Biden always understood what this election is about.

Biden was right about the level of our politics right now. He was right about what Americans were looking to hear. The message of Biden's town hall was simple: Politics can feel like this -- gentle, decent, concerned, I hope I've answered your question -- or it could continue to feel like the circus you found if you flipped over to Trump's town hall on NBC.

Natasha Korecki/Anita Kumar: 'He's getting a bit desperate': Trump tramples government boundaries as election nears.

Andy Kroll: NBC's Trump town hall was pointless and shameful.

Paul Krugman:

  • Mitch McConnell's mission of misery: "Why Senate Republicans won't help Americans in need."

    But even if Trump had any idea what he was doing, he would be paralyzed by the opposition of many, probably most Senate Republicans to any serious deal. They're willing to cover for Trump's unprecedented corruption; they're apparently unbothered by his fondness for foreign dictators. But spending money to help Americans in distress? That's where they draw the line.

  • How the GOP can still wreck America: "Even if Trump loses, his party can do immense damage." Gives several examples, but the most obvious and pressing way Republicans can extend their minority power beyond Trump's term is by packing the Supreme Court.

    In the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, Democrats have, rightly and understandably, hammered on the possibility that such a court would use transparently spurious arguments to overturn the Affordable Care Act, causing tens of millions of Americans to lose health insurance coverage. Roe v. Wade is also in obvious danger.

    But I'd argue that the biggest threat this court will pose is to environmental policy.

    Put it this way: Charles Koch is reportedly investing millions trying to get Barrett confirmed. That's not because he's passionately opposed to abortion rights, or, probably, even because he wants the A.C.A. overturned. What he's looking for, surely, is a court that will block government regulation of business -- and above all a court that will hamstring a Biden administration's efforts to take action against climate change.

Lisa Lerer: 'Please like me,' Trump begged. For many women, it's way too late. And no, none of them said they wouldn't vote for a woman. More like:

Samantha Kacmarik, a Latina college student in Las Vegas, said that four years ago, she had viewed Hillary Clinton as part of a corrupt political establishment.

Flowers Forever, a Black transgender music producer in Milwaukee, said she had thought Mrs. Clinton wouldn't change anything for the better.

And Thomas Moline, a white retired garbageman in Minneapolis, said he simply hadn't trusted her.

Not clear to me that those are reasons for voting for Biden either, but they are reasons for not voting for Trump ever again.

Lisa Lerer/Reid J Epstein: Why these voters rejected Hillary Clinton but are backing Joe Biden.

Martin Longman: That Ukraine, New York Post story? It's a big nothingburger. More:

Dylan Matthews: Why the Trump campaign is complaining so much about NBC's Savannah Guthrie: "The Trump campaign and allies are now 'working the refs' after the president's brutal town hall."

Rani Molla: The many ways we know 2020 will be a banner year for voting.

Anna North: In 2017, women marched against Trump. Now they're marching to get rid of him. "This time the Women's March is about voting Trump out."

Andrew Prokop: Trump team makes a suspicious effort to swing the election with purported Hunter Biden emails.

Frank Rich: America is tired of the Trump show. I think that will prove to be the bottom line for a critical segment of the electorate, some of whom sat out 2016 and others who figured they had nothing to lose in taking a chance on Trump. EJ Dionne once wrote a book called Why Americans Hate Politics. It wasn't as enlightening as I had hoped, but does clearly describe an impulse that many people feel -- one, quite frankly, I wish I could share. Getting rid of Trump won't make politics boring again, but it will significantly reduce the agita.

Aaron Rupar:

Greg Sargent: How Republicans will try to destroy a Biden presidency. This really just comes down to extortion: elect us or face the consequences, as we'd rather cripple America than let a Democrat succeed.

Dylan Scott:

  • The next presidential debate is the last one. Trump needs to make up a lot of ground.

  • Trump refuses to say the QAnon conspiracy theory is false. I admit to a bit of sympathy with Trump on this question. He starts out saying, "I don't know anything about QAnon." I could have said that. Sure, I've read a bit about it, but nothing sticks because nothing much makes sense. On the other hand, for many people left-of-center, condemning QAnon is a bit of virtue signaling. Granted, it seems like everyone who's into QAnon is also supporting Trump, but isn't the more tangible problem there supporting Trump? In recent venues, Trump has been repeated taunted with invitations to condemn white supremacists. I'd answer that, "Look, I don't want to condemn anyone." Then I'd go on to explain that white supremacy is bad and hurtful, and should be opposed anywhere and everywhere it pops up. But condemning people? No, I'd rather not. Unless you're talking about individuals who not only spout bad and hurtful ideas but have the power to act on them. For such individuals, like, you know, Donald Trump, sure, condemn away. Moreover, it's not like Trump refuses to condemn people on principle. He condemns people all the time, both individually and in sweeping groups.

  • How Joni Ernst went from future Republian star to an incumbent on the ropes in 2020. Not sure what's so surprising here. She played on experience castrating pigs for a genius campaign slogan in 2014: "Make 'em squeal!" On the other hand, do we really want "Keep 'em squealing"? Republicans have often sold their campaigns as some kind of revenge fantasy, but it rarely turns out that the people who get hurt are the ones you were hoping for. Ernst, like Trump, has built up a huge chasm between hopes and returns.

Walter Shapiro: The whiplash of watching two town halls from different planets: "I watched both Joe Biden and Donald Trump on Thursday night. It was like channel surfing between sanity and chaos."

Alex Shephard: NBC did Joe Biden a big favor: "By scheduling a dueling town hall, the former vice president got the perfect contrast with a raving Donald Trump."

Emily Stewart: Savannah Guthrie delivered the Trump interview we've been wanting for years.

Matt Stieb: Trump's latest Biden insult: 'He'll listen to the scientists'.

Matthew Yglesias: The delightful boringness of Joe Biden.

The dirty secret of Donald Trump's often contentious relationship with the American press is that he's been great for business.

Any time you point a camera at Trump, something crazy might happen. He goes on television and insists that his attorney general prosecute his political opponents. Biden, asked about legal accountability for Trump-era misdeeds, said it would be inappropriate for the president to be making that kind of decision. He tries to take contentious flashpoint issues and smother them in reasonableness and a broad sense of public decency. As a journalist whose job involves trying to write articles people want to read, I was, frankly, sad to have been assigned to watch the Biden town hall, which was just not that interesting.

This section picks up stories that don't exactly dovetail into the campaign, but deal with Trump and/or his administration over time.

Jonathan Chait:

Michelle Cottle: The self-dealing administration. Probably the most corrupt administration in American history. Certainly the most shameless about it.

With so much grift and graft and self-enrichment swirling about, it's amusing -- and yet horrifying -- to recall that Mr. Trump ran in 2016 as a tough, independent outsider who would bring in the "best people" to help him clean up political corruption. Today, as election night looms, the president's campaign has reportedly booked the Trump International Hotel in D.C. for a victory party. Rooms sold out months ago.

Forget draining the swamp; the president slapped his name on it and began charging admission.

Igor Derysh:

Spencer S Hsu: Federal judge strikes down Trump plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed Americans. For background, see:

Mara Hvistendahl/Lee Fang: China's man in Washington: "Move over, Hunter Biden. Meet Eric Branstad, the China Ambassador's son who got rich in Trump's swamp."

Sonali Kolhatkar: In Trump's America, there is death before due process.

Robert Mackey: Trump boasts about federal task force killing anti-fascist wanted for murder in Portland.

Nicole Narea: Trump's obstruction of the 2020 census, explained.

Cameron Peters: Why Trump flip-flopped on California disaster relief.

Robert J Shapiro: Trump's tax wizardry is even more sophisticated than you thought. This is a fascinating explanation of how Trump does business.

Millions of Americans believe that Donald Trump is a business failure who cheats on his taxes. But to borrow one of his favorite insults, the president may not be "the stone-cold loser," many imagine. In some ways, he's a success even considering his businesses generate vast losses, and he personally liable for the hundreds of millions of dollars in bank loans and junk bonds borrowed by those businesses. Instead, think of Trump as practicing an extreme alchemy of the shameless rich: He uses loans from other people to generate millions in annual tax losses as a tax shelter from millions in annual income.

How he does it is the fascinating and, perhaps, illegal part.

Alex Shephard: What did Carlos Lozada learn from reading 150 Trump books? "Not much!" Review of Lozada's book, What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era. I've been looking for, but haven't found, a list of those 150 books. I'm curious how they stack up against my Trump Books and More Trump Books surveys. More on Lozada:

Sheryl Gay Stolberg: White House embraces a declaration from scientists that opposes lockdowns and relies on 'herd immunity.' Document came from a libertarian think tank (American Institute for Economic Research). Article doesn't mention Sweden, where something like this was tried, and failed badly.

Philip Weiss: Trump stumps for Nobel Prize, saying US troops can come home if Israel has peace.

Philip Weiss/James North: Adelsons got a lot from Trump for $75 million -- but media won't tell you what.

The news late yesterday was that Sheldon and Miriam Adelson poured $75 million in September into a new super PAC that supports Donald Trump. Way more money than other donors, on either side.

Around the World

Enough world news pieces this week to merit their own section.

Julia Belluz: The 4 simple reasons Germany is managing Covid-19 better than its neighbors.

Glenn Greenwald: Bolivians return Evo Morales's party to power one year after a US-applauded coup. Election was held on Sunday. Some other links from earlier in the week:

William Hartung: How to stuff the Middle East with weaponry.

Steve Hendrix/Ruth Eglash: Israel ordered a second lockdown in response to coronavirus resurgence. It is not going so well.

Jen Kirby: The EU and the UK still haven't reached a post-Brexit agreement. What's next?

Michael Klare: A game of nuclear chicken with Russia and China.

Anna North: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wins historic reelection.

Cameron Peters: Thailand's protest movement gains momentum amid a government crackdown.

Lili Pike: How the world's biggest emitter could be carbon neutral by 2050: "Xi Jinping wants China to get to net-zero emissions. These researchers have a plan for that."

Alex Ward:

  • North Korea has unveiled new weapons, showing Trump failed to tame its nuclear program.

  • What Trump got right -- and wrong -- with North Korea, explained by a former intel official: Interview with Markus Garlauskas, who comes off as very dumb, especially in his conclusion: "We have to be willing to go back to a 2017 level of confrontation. If Kim senses that the US is more afraid of war than he is, he has the advantage." What difference does "advantage" mean in a nuclear confrontation? Where both sides have the ability to inflict grievous damage upon the other, there can be no such thing as winning. The failure to negotiate an end to the 1950-53 War is the result of several asymmetries. The balance of terror favors the US, but even when it was much greater than it is now, it was never enough to force North Korea into capitulation. Indeed, it's only with the leveling of the balance of vulnerability that the US has shown any interest in any sort of agreement. (Granted, the destruction of North Korea would be more complete, but the US has much more to lose than does one of the poorest and most isolated countries in the world.) But the really dangerous asymmetry is of stakes. Normalizing relations would make all the difference in the world to North Korea, yet until North Korea developed a credible nuclear threat, the Americans were happy to bottle up and ignore North Korea. Trump failed to negotiate a deal because he was unwilling to compromise on sanctions, even after North Korea had backed down from the threats implied by its nuclear and missile testing programs. The net result was that North Korea got nothing tangible for its concessions, so has no reason to continue with them.

  • Russia and China will join the UN Human Rights Council. The US should too. Seems to me like it's a rather moot point until such time as the US actually develops an even-handed concern for human rights, as opposed to the current practice of charging countries it doesn't like while excusing those it considers allies. Should that happen -- at the least it involves defeating Trump, but electing Biden is no guarantee, especially viz Israel -- then I can see plusses trying to work with Russia and China within UNHCR, even though neither has close to a sterling record. The US record leaves much to be desired, too.

And then there's everything else.

Patrick Blanchfield: The town that went feral: "When a group of libertarians set about scrapping their local government, chaos descended. And then the bears moved in." Town and bears are in New Hampshire. Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling wrote a book about it: A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears).

John Cassidy: The great coronavirus divide: Wall Street profits surge as poverty rises.

David Daley: Inside the Republican plot for permanent minority rule: "How the GOP keeps cheating its way into power -- and may get away with it again in 2020." Daley is the author of the book on GOP gerrymandering: Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, and more recently, Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.

Steve Fraser: Was American history a conspiracy? Somehow I missed Fraser's book, Mongrel Firebugs and Men of Property: Capitalism and Class Conflict in American History (paperback, 2019, Verso), although I did read Every Man a Speculator: A History of Wall Street in American Life (2006), The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (2015), and Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion (2018).

We live in conspiratorial times. The decline of the United States as an uncontestable super-power and its descent into plutocratic indifference to the wellbeing of the commonwealth is the seedbed of such conspiracy-mindedness. Soldiers are sent off to fight interminable wars of vague purpose against elusive "enemies" with no realistic prospect of resolution, much less American-style "victory" whatever that might mean these days. "Dark money" undermines what's left of democratic protocols and ideals. Gross and still growing inequalities in the distribution of wealth and income are accepted year after year as business as usual.

All of this breeds entirely justified resentment and suspicion.

Gabrielle Gurley: Like Southwest Louisiana, FEMA is worn down.

Bob Henson: Iowa derecho in August was ost costly thunderstorm disaster in US history.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs: Refugees who assisted the US military find the door to America slammed shut: "President Trump has reduced the flow of refugees into the country to a trickle, and even Iraqis and Afghans who risked their lives for American service members have been cut off." As someone who opposed those wars from the git-go, this doesn't bother me much, nor am I surprised: I never thought America's commitment to liberating people abroad was sincere or even serious. On the other hand, the historical rule of thumb was that colonizers and imperialists would honor commitments made to people who helped them despite widespread resistance. That is, after all, why the UK and France have substantial minorities who emigrated from their former colonies. Even the US has substantial minorities of Cubans and Vietnamese. (Anti-communist refugees proved to be an advantage for the far right. Even now, see: Will flag-waving Latinos win Florida for Trump?) But the War on Terror was never anything more than a cynical effort to demonstrate America's supposedly awesome power and use it to cower the Muslim World.

German Lopez: 2020's marijuana legalization ballot measures, explained. Full legalization is on ballots in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. South Dakota also has a medical marijuana referendum, as does Mississippi.

Timothy Noah: The media's both-sides brigade is wrong about a Covid-19 stimulus deal.

Zoë Richards: Man arrested in threat to kidnap and kill Wichita Mayor over mask mandate. Mayor Whipple has done a good job of listening to folks bitch about masks while guiding a series of mask mandates through the City Council (always in conflict with the Sedgwick County Commission, which has a 4-1 asshole majority). Evidently Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) has also received threats. Richards also wrote: Northam says white supremacists are taking 'marching orders' from Trump.

Nathan J Robinson/Rob Larson: Big business and its bottomless bootlickers: Review of Tyler Cowen's new book, Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero.

Dylan Scott: America's newest wave of Covid-19 cases, explained. "Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are up across the country." Trend line is up since mid-September. Kansas as set records 3-4 weeks in a row. We have friends in Massachusetts who just tested positive. There are more famous names in the news.

Brittany Shammas/Lena H Sun: How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest.

Jennifer Szalai: A undercover trip into the rageful worlds of incels and white supremacists: Review of Talia Lavin: Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy.

But she doesn't leave it at that, and one of the marvels of this furious book is how insolent and funny Lavin is; she refuses to soft-pedal the monstrous views she encounters, and she clearly takes pleasure in cutting them down to size. She is aided in her mission by the fact that the language of extremists tends to occupy the space between risible and profoundly dumb. Contemporary white supremacy is a mishmash of old anti-Semitic tropes, racist pseudoscience and bizarre fantasia -- what Lavin calls a "bigot's pastiche." The people who promulgate it often toggle between cruel, inane jokes and a fastidious humorlessness. "Anything," Lavin writes, "an errant wind, a dumb tweet, a conspiracy theory invented from whole cloth -- can drum up the forces of white grievance."

Libby Watson:

  • The Democrats aren't serious about campaign finance reform: They obviously weren't serious after the 2008 elections, which gave them the Presidency and huge majorities in Congress, probably because the one thing most of those winners had in common was a knack for raising money. This year Democrats are doing even better at fundraising (see Aaron Blake above). On the other hand, aren't you really sick and tired of this system?

  • Ben Sasse is a fraud: "The hard-line Republican senator wants us to believe he's a Never Trumper again, after making peace with the president last year." Nevertheless, he hit a nerve: see Trump fires back as Sasse after town hall criticism.

Matthew Yglesias: The quest to build the most diverse Cabinet in US history, explained. This is all very depressing to think about now, not least because making bad picks -- and let's face it, most of the touted candidates are pretty deeply wedged into the old status quo -- diminishes the idea of an open future. But also because Clinton tried the whole "Cabinet that looks like America" shtick, and while he met his quotas on race and sex (and whatever), he wound up with a lot of rich folk working to make the rich richer, with the "trickle down" mostly shunted off to his foundation and political machine. But even with all due skepticism, one shouldn't get too bent out of shape by these prospects. Even his most compromised picks are as much better than Trump's picks as Biden himself is better than Trump.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Daily Log

Upgraded main machine to Ubuntu 20.04 today. Some snags:

  • I allowed it to uninstall unsupported packages. One of these turned out to be emacs. When I tried to run emacs, it suggested I run: sudo snap install emacs. When I did, it warned me that emacs wasn't packaged properly for snap, so suggested I run with the --classic option if I trusted the source/accepted the risks. Evidently snap is new and runs in a cage which limits how installation scripts can modify the system. I did that. When I ran emacs, I got a very slow startup, with a lot of fontconfig errors. Haven't debugged them yet.

  • Web server apache2 failed to come up. I saw an error message on the fly, but it didn't sink in until I wasn't able to access any local web pages. Problem was /etc/apache2/mods-enabled/php7.2.load, which called for non-existent /usr/lib/apache2/modules/libphp7.2.so. I got it to run by changing this to libphp7.4.so, but better solution might be to remove the file. There is no php7.2 installed on system.

  • More stuff broke on the Robert Christgau website: e.g., get_artist.php (subjects for further research).

Had to make edits to /etc/php/7.4/apache2/php.ini:

  • Changed short_open_tag = Off to On
  • Changed display_errors = Off to On
  • Changed display_startup_errors = Off to On
  • Changed default_charset = "UTF-8" to "ISO-8859-1"
  • Changed max_filesize = 2M to 20M

Friday, October 16, 2020

Book Roundup

Blog link.

Having pushed all the Trump books out earlier this week, here's a batch of 40 more book blurbs, plus another 110 books briefly noted -- 48 in the following section, plus 62 tacked onto main section notes. [PS: Added some books after this count. Also note that I added more Trump-related books to the previous post.]

I find this exercise useful to keep track of what the world knows -- at least, what knowledgeable people in America are saying about what concerns them. But there's also an element of nostalgia at work here. For most of my life, I visited book stores two or more times a week, spending innumerable hours poking through the shelves. I slacked off when Borders was driven out of business. Hasn't helped that Barnes & Noble has mostly turned into a toy store. Blame it on Amazon if you want, but they're my main source for these notes.

Still, I keep feeling that I'm not getting as systematic a survey as I'd like. Amazon has replaced their related suggestions with "books you may like," which are so redundant from page to page that they smell like ads. Their browsing system is even lamer, leading me at times to search for other sources -- to little avail. I keep thinking this list is rather arbitrary. In fact, I have as many book titles jotted down in my draft file, but didn't feel like writing up at the moment of discovery, and haven't taken the time to backtrack. Meanwhile, I'm including Ted Cruz, because the moment I saw the book I knew what to say.

I was figuring four times a year would be a reasonable pace, but then came up with the idea of briefly noting titles I didn't feel like writing about. That probably reduces the need to 2-3 times per year. This is the second this year (not counting the two Trump sets). Could do a third, but may not get to it.

Books from the main section I've read so far: Danielle S Allen: Our Declaration; Thomas Frank: The People, No; Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets. Just started Sheri Berman: Democracy and Dicatorship in Europe, and have Kurt Andersen: Evil Geniuses on deck. I haven't updated the archive yet. It's too big to be useful for readers, but I use it to check whether I've written on a book before. As such, I need to get it updated before working on a new installment. I've jotted down enough book titles for another post, but don't plan on writing them up until after the election.


Danielle S Allen: Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014; paperback, 2015, Liveright): A deep reading of all 1,337 words, often taking several chapters to work through a single sentence, disentangling multiple authors and printers who added their own distinct touches, the historical context, and the debates that were ultimately obscured in compromise. I've long been convinced that the only way to gain agreement is through equality, and Allen shows how this works in very specific ways.

Kurt Andersen: Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America (2020, Random House): More of a novelist and humor writer (3 and 5 books respectively -- a 1980 humor title is Tools of Power: The Elitist's Guide to the Ruthless Exploitation of Everybody and Everything) until recently, when he tried to sum up the whole of American history as Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire (2017), offers a brief recap of the 1970s and before, then surveys the many things that have gone wrong since -- I assume properly assigning blame to right-wingers who fit the title, not that there haven't been plenty more who came up a bit short in the "genius" department.

Anne Applebaum: Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (2020, Doubleday): Like Timothy Snyder, an historian who thinks her research on Eastern Europe -- e.g., Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine (2018) -- gives her the authority to comment on the rise of illiberalism and the eclipse of democracy under Republicans in America. While it can be occasionally amusing to compare Republican Party discipline to Soviet apparatchiki, it misses much, like the fundamental Communist commitment to serve the working class -- nothing like that among America's anti-democrats. Isn't it much more likely to find anti-democratic roots in American history, with its legacy of colonial rule, slavery, capitalism, and empire?

Sheri Berman: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe: From the Ancien Régime to the Present Day (2019, Oxford University Press): A broad comparative history of political systems in Western Europe -- the table of contents doesn't offer anything east of Germany and Italy, or earlier than the late 18th century, but the introduction starts earlier and looks further. Lots of recent books on current threats to democracy from would-be dictators, but few go back further than the 1930s, obscuring two essential points: the promise of democracy was to expand and equalize power, in most cases achieved only through revolution against autocracy; would-be dictators almost always sought to defend or restore autocratic power. Of course, the earlier term was aristocracy, but conservatives have proven flexible enough to stand up for any class that enjoys the privileges of wealth.

David Brooks: The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (2019, Random House): Right-wing pundit/hack, likes to exult the moral superiority of conservatives, a profession of whitewashing that's been hard to sustain since Trump became his followers' leader. This seems to have nudged him into resistance, but here he mainly tunnels into his own personal conviction of moral superiority, thinking that will protect him from the evils of his former comrades, as well as from the masses he's always dedicated himself to keeping in their place.

Lee Camp: Bullet Points and Punch Lines: The Most Important Commentary Ever Written on the Epic American Tragicomedy (paperback, 2020, PM Press). Left political commentator, has a rep as a comedian, but his chapter titles aren't very funny -- "The Pentagon Can't Account for 21 Trillion Dollars (That's Not a Typo)," "Nearly 100 Thousand Pentagon Whistleblower Complaints Have Been Silenced," "Everyone Has Fallen for Lies about Venezuela," "Trump's Miliary Drops a Bomb Every 12 Minutes, and No One Is Talking about It," etc.), and each piece comes with footnotes. Jimmy Dore (another "comedian") wrote the introduction, and Chris Hedges (a moralist with no discernible sense of humor) the foreword. They, too, have books:

  • Jimmy Dore: Your Country Is Just Not That Into You: How the Media, Wall Street, and Both Political Parties Keep on Screwing You -- Even After You've Moved On (paperback, 2014, Running Press).
  • Chris Hedges: America: The Farewell Tour (2018; paperback, 2019, Simon & Schuster).

Sarah Chayes: On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake (2020, Knopf): Journalist, covered the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, made herself at home there, wrote a book about how corruption undermined whatever best intentions some of the American occupiers might have had -- The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (2006) -- winding up on the US payroll as "special advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" on corruption. She moved on to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and wrote another big book on corruption: Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. Here she finally reaches the major leagues, looking at corruption in America. Table of contents suggests her interests fade out past the 1990s, which is a shame considering that Trump's worth a long book all by himself. I guess it's hard to write history while it's still happening. Much as it's hard to rebuild a country while you're still blowing it to shit.

Ellis Cose: The Short Life & Curious Death of Free Speech in America (2020, Amistad). Journalist, twelfth book though I hadn't noticed any of the earlier ones, many dealing with racism. Blurb here describes this as "about the stranglehold the rich and powerful have on free speech." This fits in with my definition of advertising as not free but very expensive speech, priced to form a barrier to entry against those who cannot afford it. I'm not sure this even gets around to advertising, as he starts with hate speech and incitement to violence, and moves on to consider how the right's "defense" of "free speech" on campus attempts to stifle it. Some other books by Cose:

  • Ellis Cose: A Nation of Strangers: Prejudice, Politics, and the Populating of America (1992, William Morrow).
  • Ellis Cose: The Rage of a Privileged Class: Why Are Middle-Class Blacks Angry? Why Should America Care? (paperback, 1994, Harper Perennial).
  • Ellis Cose: Man's World: How Real Is Male Privilege -- and How High Is Its Price? (paperback, 1995, Harper Collins).
  • Ellis Cose: Color-Blind: Seeing Beyond Race in a Race-Obsessed World (1996; paperback, 1998, Harper Perennial).
  • Ellis Cose: The Envy of the World: On Being a Black Man in America (2002, Atria; paperback, 2003, Washington Square Press).
  • Ellis Cose: Bone to Pick: Of Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Repearation, and Revenge (2004, Atria; paperback, 2005, Washington Square Press).
  • Ellis Cose: The End of Anger: A New Generation's Take on Race and Rage (2011; paperback, 2012, Ecco).
  • Ellis Cose: Democracy, if We Can Keep It: The ACLU's 100-Year Fight for Rights in America (2020, New Press).

Ted Cruz: One Vote Away: How a Single Supreme Court Seat Can Change History (2020, Regnery): Seems like uncanny timing, but what he's really arguing is that losing a seat from the 5-4 right-wing majority would give "the left the power to curtail or even abolish the freedoms that have made our country a beacon to the world." I'd ask "what the fuck?" but he kindly enumerates the threat: "One vote preserves your right to speak freely, to bear arms, and to exercise your faith." Given that two of those are much more carefully protected by liberals, it really just comes down to the guns, doesn't it? Well, and things Cruz doesn't publicize, because they protect and further empower privileged elites, like Cruz.

David Dayen: Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power (2020, New Press): "Today, practically everything we buy, everywhere we shop, and every service we secure comes from a heavily concentrated market." This concentration generates most of the profits businesses enjoy, sucking money up to feed the ever-growing wealth of the very richest people on the planet. Focuses more on case studies than on statistical scale, but works even more inexorably there. Along with money, monopoly sucks up power, giving corporations and their masters ever more control over our lives. Dayen previously wrote Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street's Great Foreclosure Fraud (paperback, 2017, New Press). Other recent books on monopoly:

  • Samir Amin: Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capital, and Marx's Law of Value (paperback, 2018, Monthly Review Press). Amin was born in Egypt with a French mother, lived most of his life (1932-2018) in France, wrote many books on colonialism, imperialism, globalization, and capitalism's effect around the world.
  • Michele Boldrin/David K Levine: Against Intellectual Monopoly (paperback, 2010, Cambridge University Press).
  • Michael Mark Cohen: The Conspiracy of Capital: Law, Violence, and American Popular Radicalism in the Age of Monopoly (paperback, 2019, University of Massachusetts Press).
  • Thom Hartmann: The Hiden History of Monopolies: How Big Business Destroyed the American Dream (paperback, 2020, Berrett-Koehler).
  • Sally Hubbard: Monopolies Suck: 7 Ways Big Corporations Rule Your Life and How to Take Back Control (2020, Simon & Schuster). [October 27]
  • N Stephen Kinsella: Against Intellectual Proprty (paperback, 2015, Ludwig von Mises Institute): 72 pp.
  • Jack Lawrence Luzkow: Monopoly Restored: How the Super-Rich Robbed Main Street (2018, Palgrave Macmillan).
  • Barry C Lynn: Liberty From All Masters: The New American Autocracy vs the Will of the People (St Martin's Press).
  • Jonathan Tepper/Denise Hearn: The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition (2018, Wiley).
  • Zephyr Teachout: Break 'Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money (2020, All Points Books). Introduction by Bernie Sanders.

By the way, searching for "monopoly" also brought up some older books (one might even say classics):

  • Paul A Baran/Paul M Sweezy: Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order (1966, Monthly Review Press). Baran also wrote The Political Economy of Growth (1957), and The Longer View: Essays Toward a Critique of Political Economy (1970). Sweezy's first book was Monopoly and Competition in the English Coal Trade, 1550-1850 (1938), but he is better known for The Theory of Capitalist Development (1946) and this book. He also co-authored, with Harry Magdoff, The End of Prosperity (1977), which shows uncanny timing.
  • Harry Braverman: Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (paperback, 1974, Monthly Review Press). A "25th Anniversary" edition was published in 1999.
  • Michael Burawoy: Manufacturing Consent: Changes in the Labor Process Under Monopoly Capitalism (paperback, 1982, University of Chicago Press).
  • John Bellamy Foster, ed: The Age of Monopoly Capital: Selected Correspondence of Paul M Sweezy and Paul A Baran, 1949-1964 (paperback, 2018, Aakar Books).

Robert Draper: To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq (2020, Penguin Press): Seems like this whole saga has been recounted many times before, but I doubt it hurts to be reminded of how arrogant and mendacious the Bush administration was to sell their plot to invade and occupy Iraq. It's all but universally agreed now that doing so was a very foolish thing -- many of us could have told you so at the time, yet the self-conception of the neocons demanded that the war be pursued and insisted that its success was inevitable (their only debates were if, or more likely when, they'd push on through Syria and Iran). Draper's previous books include Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W Bush (2007).

Thomas Frank: The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism (2020, Metropolitan Books): Like myself, a Kansas-bred author with a long interest in and sympathy for the Peoples Party, which swept into power in Kansas around 1890, and fizzled as a political party after aligning with William Jennings Bryan's Democrats in 1896. Frank covers the opposition to Bryan in 1896, and the less successful opposition to Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, in some detail, finding common threads of "anti-populism." He then jumps to the present day, finding anti-populism once more on the rise, but anomalously among the coastal liberal elites who have taken over the Democratic Party -- a group he skewered in his 2016 book Listen, Liberal: Or What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?. I'm less impressed by that part of the book. I don't doubt that liberal elites have their blind spots, but the right still embodies the anti-populism of 1896 and 1936 in near pristine form, and they're still the biggest problem.

Beth Gardiner: Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution (2019, University of Chicago Press): Air quality decreased steadily in the US until laws were passed to regulate it in the 1970s -- laws which worked, although it's hard to say for how long given the Trump administration's resolve to limit enforcement of the regulations it isn't able to overturn directly. Elsewhere the situation is often worse -- in London, where the author lives, and even worse in places she visits like Poland and India. All told, "air pollution prematurely kills seven million people every year." Related:

  • Gary Fuller: The Invisible Killer: The Rising Global Threat of Air Pollution -- and How We Can Fight Back (2019, Melville House).
  • Tim Smedley: Clearing the Air: The Beginning and the End of Air Pollution (2019, Bloomsbury Sigma).
  • Dean Spence: Air: Pollution, Climate Change and India's Choice Between Policy and Pretence (paperback, 2019, Harper Collins India).

Mary Grabar: Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America (2019, Regnery). The book Grabar attacks is Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which revisits American history with eyes open to the experiences and views of those people treated most harshly by American power -- people who have often been forgotten when respectable histories were written. Whether Zinn actually "turned a generation against America" is questionable. He certainly opened some eyes to past (and present) injustices, giving us a clearer idea of what needs to be changed in moving forward. He's also upset a lot of conservatives, who are happy with their myths.

Steven Greenhouse: Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor (2019, Knopf): Journalist, covered labor for New York Times 1983-2014, previously writing The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker (2008, Knopf), so he has a long, detailed view of the dismantling of labor power in America, but he should also be able to point out cases of increased worker militancy over the last few years, as well as the revived interest of left Democrats in unions. I'd expect there to be more books on this, but I'm having trouble finding them.

  • Mark A Bradley: Blood Runs Coal: The Yablonski Murders and the Battle for the United Mine Workers of America (2020, WW Norton).
  • Phil Cohen: Fighting Union Busters in a Carolina Carpet Mill: An Organizer's Memoir (paperback, 2020, McFarland).
  • Erik Loomis: A History of America in Ten Strikes (2018, New Press).
  • Jane McAlevey: A Collective Bargain: Unions, Organizing, and the Fight for Democracy (2020, Ecco).
  • Lane Windham: Knocking on Labor's Door: Union Organizing in the 1970s and the Roots of a New Economic Divide (paperback, 2019, University of North Carolina Press).

Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality (2020, Liveright): Authors have a long line of important books on the rise of the right since 2000 -- their The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care, and Retirement and How You Can Fight Back (2007) -- is one of the most insightful. This adds a few Trump ruffles, but is most important for reminding us that Trump's worst policies are long-term Republican projects, the purpose of which is to make the rich not just richer but more powerful, aiming to lock their advantages in well into the future.

Yuval Noah Harari: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018, Spiegel & Grau): Israeli historian, wrote big picture books like Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014) and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2017), takes a swing at a scattering of topics, like "Civilization" ("there is just one civilization in the world"), "Nationalism" ("global problems need global answers"), "War" ("never underestimate human stupidity"), "Ignorance" ("you know less than you think"), "Meaning" ("life is not a story").

Sarah Stewart Holland/Beth A Silvers: I Think You're Wrong (but I'm Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations 2019, Thomas Nelson): "Sarah from the left and Beth from the right," share a podcast called Pantsuit Politics, fill a small niche for folks who don't live in any of our self-defined, self-affirmed ideological ghettoes, who run into people from warring political camps and don't want to shy away from the subject. I think that's a different concern from the so-called centrists, who are often as narrow-minded as the extremists but are sneakier, pretending to be reasonable while trying to covertly push self-serving agendas. Related:

  • Justin Lee: Talking Across the Divide: How to Communicate With People You Disagree With and Maybe Even Change the World (paperback, 2018, Tarcher Perigee).

Seth Masket: Learning From Loss: The Democrats 2016-2020 (2020, Cambridge University Press): Democratic Party strategist, sees Joe Biden's nomination as "a strategic choice by a party that had elevated electability above all other concerns." That's far from the only possible lesson that could be discerned from Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016, but it's certainly true that the Democratic left is much more united behind Biden than the right/center would have been behind Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Whether Democrats can sell Biden to marginal voters (both ones tempted to vote for Trump or some other candidate and ones who prone to skipping the vote) remains to be seen. I'm no Biden fan, but I'm not unhappy with this resolution. But it's clear to me that another lesson from 2016 is that the Democrats have to learn to deliver results, and have to make a case and a stink when Republicans block them -- the sudden backtracking of Clinton in 1993 and Obama in 2009 led to catastrophic losses in Congress, and while both remained personally popular enough to win second terms, neither delivered on more than a tiny fraction of their campaign promises. Their loss of faith was a major factor in Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016.

Stephanie Kelton: The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy (2020, Public Affairs): All about MMT, which would seem to rationalize much more extensive government deficit spending than is commonly regarded as prudent. If valid, it would provide an answer to the naysayers who always reject left proposals by declaring them too expensive. I can't say as I understand it, and will note that many Keynesian economists remain skeptical or worse (and these are people who generally believe that more deficit spending is a good thing). Related:

  • Jacob Goldstein: Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing (2020, Hachette Books).
  • Edward Fullbrook/Jamie Morgan, eds: Modern Monetary Theory and Its Critics (paperback, 2020, WEA).
  • Robert Hockett/Aaron James: Money From Nothing: Or, Why We Should Stop Worrying About Debt and Learn to Love the Federal Reserve (2020, Melville House). This book may deserve its own review: Hockett is a Green New Deal adviser to Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez; James is the philosopher who wrote: Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump.
  • WF Mitchell/LR Wray/MJ Watts: Modern Monetary Theory and Practice: An Introductory Text (paperback, 2016, CreateSpace).
  • Warren Mosler: Soft Currency Economics II: What Everyone Thinks That They Know About Monetary Policy Is Wrong (paperback, 2013, CreateSpace).
  • L Randall Wray: Modern Money Theory: A Primer on Macroeconomics for Sovereign Monetary Systems (2012; 2nd edition, paperback, 2015, Palgrave Macmillan).
  • Randall Wray: A Great Leap Forward: Heterodox Economic Policy for the 21st Century (paperback, 2020, Academic Press).

Ibram X Kendi: How to Be an Antiracist (2019, One World): Historian, wrote a major book Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2016), which explored five Amerian figures in depth: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, WEB DuBois, and Angela Davis. This book recounts his family life, events which revealed racism in various guises, leading to a taxonomy he contrasts with "antiracism"; some examples: "assimilationist"/"segregationist," "biological," "ethnic"; also "internalized racism." This book became a belated bestseller after the George Floyd killing.

Matthew C Klein/Michael Pettis: Trade Wars Are Class Wars: How Rising Inequality Distorts the Global Economy and Threatens International Peace (2020, Yale University Press): "A provocative look at how today's trade conflicts are caused by governments promoting the interests of elites at the expense of workers." That's certainly what happens when the US negotiates trade deals: businesses lobby for advantages (especially for the collection of rents on patents and copyrights), while opposition from unions concerned about jobs and wages is casually ignored. The US has run trade deficits ever since 1970, and that turns out to be an efficient way to transfer wealth from workers/consumers to the rich, as those deficits are recycled through the banks to help prop up the assets of the rich.

Richard Kreitner: Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America's Imperfect Union (2020, Little Brown): A history going back to the colonial period of movements to unite and divide the American colonies/states. While the history is interesting, its utility to thinking about the recent Red/Blue State split is less clear. Every state has a substantial purple minority, at least partly protected by the federal government and economic and cultural union. Division would increase polarization, both within and between nascent states. One could instead have looked at secession and division around the world, where the results have most often been ominous. Aside from numerous border clashes and internal purges, the most common result is an increase in government plunder and oligarchy. One critique I've seen of this book [actually, of the David French book below] is that it's way too optimistic. This is precisely the sort of subject which inspires high hopes and bitter disappointment.

  • David French: Divided We Fall: America's Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation (2020, St Martin's Press). [October 6]

David Paul Kuhn: The Hardhat Riot: Nixon, New York City, and the Dawn of the White Working-Class Revolution (2020, Oxford University Press): About the New York City mob -- supposedly unionized construction workers -- that went berserk attacking anti-war protesters in the days after the Kent State massacre in 1970. Nixon had escalated the war in Vietnam, and was rationalizing his act by claiming support of a "silent majority" of Americans, so he was delighted to see some such group emerge from silence. Nowadays, this is seen as a pivotal event in the turn of the white working class toward Republican reaction. It did seem to have a class aspect to it, given that at this point the antiwar movement was mostly associated with middle-class (and wealthier) students at universities (although veterans were becoming increasingly prominent).

Jill Lepore: If Then: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future (2020, Liveright): Historian, major early work was on King Philip's War in the colonial period, but she's jumped around a lot, landing here post-WWII when computers were first used for Cold War propaganda and plotting political campaigns. I read a precis of this in The New Yorker and figured it to be a stand-alone essay, so I have no idea how she expanded that to 452 pages. Except, I guess, that "the future" is one of those expansive subjects.

Evan Osnos: Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now (2020, Scribner): New Yorker writer, looks like a quickie (192 pp) but not available until a week before the election (which is to say a week before the most important fact becomes known). Even so, there is very little serious competition, despite the fact that Biden has been a shoe-in for the nomination since mid-March, after having been the front-runner for most of 2015, and was well known long before. If anything, this pathetic list suggests that who he is or what he stands for hardly matters next to the horrors of his opponent. [October 27] Other Biden books (including previous mentions*):

  • David Hagan: No Ordinary Joe: The Life & Career of Joe Biden (paperback, 2020, Opplan): 134 pp.
  • *Steven Levingston: Barack and Joe: The Making of an Extraordinary Partnership (2019, Hachette Books)
  • *Branko Marcetic: Yesterday's Man: The Case Against Joe Biden (paperback, 2020, Verso): left-wing critique.
  • *Mike McCormick: Joe Biden Unauthorized: And the 2020 Crackup of the Democratic Party (paperback, 2020, 15 Years a Deplorable): right-wing attack.
  • Jules Witcover: Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption (2010; revised, paperback, 2019, William Morrow).

Dave Rubin: Don't Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason (2020, Sentinel): Author, who describes himself as "a former progressive turned classical liberal," claims to have "the most-watched show about free speech and big ideas on YouTube." But his "free thinking" is mostly borrowed from Jordan Peterson, and his received nonsense is anything but free. Rather, it supports a factless rant against an imaginary left, which is based on his failure to understand the first thing about the real left, which is that all people deserve respect and support, in a way that fairly balances individual desires with collective needs. Classical liberalism started to understand that, before falling into a hedonism that celebrated the greediest individuals as they trampled over everyone else. They flatter themselves as "free thinkers" when all they really are is self-indulgent. It's all very sad.

Michael J Sandel: The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good? (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Another look at the false promise and sordid reality of meritocracy -- the notion that people rise to their level of ability, which easily gets twisted around to rationalizing that inequality as it exists is a reflection of merit. Chris Hayes wrote a good book on this subject -- Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy (2012), and there have been others, like Daniel Markovits: The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite (2019). Sandel is more of a philosopher, with previous books like Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (2009), and What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012).

Jared Yates Sexton: American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World but Failed Its People (2020, Dutton): I suppose you could say that the genius of the American political system is its ability to satisfy all special interests, as long as they aren't seen as impinging on one another (and by design they are rarely seen otherwise). This, rather than deep ideological beliefs, explains a lot of American foreign policy. Thus, the US happily does the bidding of companies in foreign countries. Conversely, interests that aren't strongly represented among Washington lobbyists have no clout, and their number includes almost everyone in the world. But sometimes, the indifference and casual cruelty of US foreign policy comes back to bite us, so maybe the system doesn't balance interests off so well after all? I think that's what the author is getting at here, but with Trump on the one hand and his neoliberal/neoconservative critics on the other, there's a lot of extra muck to wade through. But one has to conclude that the persistent practice of injustice abroad eventually leads to injustice at home.

David Shimer: Rigged: America, Russia, and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference (2020, Knopf): Tries to put Russia's "interference" with the 2016 US election into historical context, finding that both the US and Russia have mucked each other about, and much of the rest of the world, for a long time. He gets to 100 years by citing Russia's attempt to lead Communist Parties around the world through Comintern. Not sure whether he mentions that the US (like Great Britain and a few others) sent troops to Russia in 1918 to fight against the Revolution. (He does allow that "Foreign democracies assumed the Comintern had powers it did not.") Of more concern here is the recent cyberwarfare, not least because it seems like a low-risk way to do under-handed things. Sensible leaders would negotiate agreements to reduce or end the problem. Trump and Putin aren't sensible.

Bryant Simon: The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Sory of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives (2017, New Press): The story of a fire in a chicken processing plant in Hamlet, NC (1991), killing 25 workers -- an omen that the days of the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Fire are returning.

Neal Simon: Contract to Unite America: Ten Reforms to Reclaim Our Republic (2020, Real Clear Publishing): Author ran as an independent for Senate from Maryland, and lost, of course. He suffers from the typical myopia of centrists: thinking the two parties are mirror opposites, and insisting there is more common ground (and no crippling differences) between them than there is. Accordingly, his ten reforms are almost purely procedural: Open Primaries Act, Educated Electorate Act ("A nonpartisan Federal Debate Commission will be created to ensure the fairness and caliber of presidential and congressional election debates"), Term Limits Constitutional Amendment, Elections Transparency Act, Campaign Finance Constitutional Amendment ("Government may distinguish between corporations and people, and Congress and the states can apply reasonable limits on campaign spending"), Ballot Access Act, Fair Districts Act, Fair Representation Act, Congressional Rules, and Creating a Culture of Unity ("We call on our next president to form a bipartisan administration, for Congress to sign a civility pledge, for Americans to participate in national service, and for our schools to revive civics education"). The reality is that American politics has become polarized around the deepest divide of the modern era: between the rich and the masses. As self-appointed agents of the rich, the Republicans have come to view democracy as a trap, which is why they feel no qualms about lying, cheating, and stealing. And as they have become successful at exploiting loopholes and inequities in law and even in the Constitution, some Democrats are realizing that they, too, have to fight dirty, even if they can justify to themselves the need to restore and preserve democracy. Related:

  • Lee Drutman: Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America (2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Charles Wheelan: The Centrist Manifesto (paperback, 2019, WW Norton).

Roberto Sirvent/Danny Haiphong: American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News -- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (2019, Skyhorse): By "fake news" they mean propaganda, more specifically stories that were spun by apologists of power, hoping to convince people that Americans are more exceptional and more innocent than is plainly the case. I've long thought that "American exceptionalism" was a self-flattering myth wrapped around a set of trivial truths, such that you could never really pick it apart, even as it was used to justify unconscionable deeds. "American innocence" is harder to explain, no matter how far you go back or afield, so that angle poses a fat target for these authors.

Timothy Snyder: Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty From a Hospital Diary (paperback, 2020, Crown): The historian and author of On Liberty: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century got sick, and (barely) lived to write about it. Doesn't reflect well on the American health care system . . . or on American democracy, which are not unrelated.

Jim Tankersley: The Riches of This Land (2020, Public Affairs): The post-WWII economic boom built the most expansive middle class in American history, a novelty at the time, and today an increasingly distant memory. What happened? Good question, but I'm not so sure about his answer: "He begins by unraveling the real mystery of the American economy since the 1970s -- not where did the jobs go, but why haven't new and better ones been created to replace them." The secret of the middle class was never that everyone had all of the education and opportunity to get the best jobs they could. The secret was that all jobs, even menial ones, paid enough to live on. That didn't last because wages failed to keep up with inflation and productivity gains -- because workers got screwed coming and going. Of course, it's true that America was never as middle class as white folks thought, and that weakness started the slide.

Alex S Vitale: The End of Policing (paperback, 2018, Verso): This book and author got a fair amount of attention after the "defund the police" meme spread following the George Floyd murder. Matthew Yglesias wrote a review, finding Vitale's arguments not quite convincing. That's probably right in some final analysis, but unless you start to question the principles behind policing, prosecution, incarceration, etc., it's impossible to straighten out the mess we're in. For instance, I think we need more policing of spam and hacking on the Internet, but don't necessarily see jail as the solution. I looked through my books file and found just 12 references to "police" and 10 to "policing," including: Paul Butler: Chokehold: Policing Black Men (2017); Angela Davis, ed: Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment (2017); Virginia Eubanks: Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (2018); Jordan T Camp/Christina Heatherton, eds: Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (2016); James Forman Jr: Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America (2017). A quick search uncovered some more (and no doubt still more will appear soon):

  • Radley Balko: Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces (paperback, 2014, Public Affairs).
  • Simon Balto: Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago From Red Summer to Black Power (paperback, 2020, University of North Carolina Press).
  • David Correia/Tyler Wall: Police: A Field Guide (paperback, 2018, Verso).
  • Max Felker-Kantor: Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD (paperback, 2020, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Barry Friedman: Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission (paperback, 2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Sidney L Harring: Policing a Class Society (2nd ed, paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
  • Charles D Hayes: Blue Bias: An Ex-Cop Turned Philosopher Examines the Learning and Resolve Necessary to End Hidden Prejudice in Policing (paperback, 2020, Autodidactic Press).
  • Matthew Horace: The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America's Law Enforcement (paperback, 2019, Hachette Books).
  • Marisol LeBrón: Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico (paperback, 2019, University of California Press).
  • Andrea J Ritchie: Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color (paperback, 2017, Beacon Press).
  • Maya Schenwar/Victoria Law: Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms (2020, New Press).
  • Maya Schenwar/Joe Macaré/Alana Yu-lan Price, eds: Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States (paperback, 2016, Haymarket Books).
  • Danielle Sered: Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair (2019, New Press).
  • Kristian Williams: Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America (revised, paperback, 2015, AK Press).
  • Franklin E Zimring: When Police Kill (paperback, 2018, Harvard Universitiy Press).

Isabel Wilkerson: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (2020, Random House): A book on how inequality gets preserved and locked in inherited systems passed on from generation to generation. Compares several such systems, starting with the now-banned caste system in India. Wilkerson's specialty is Afro-American history -- her major book was The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (2010) -- so it's easy enough to see how one might try to view racial inequality through the lens caste provides. The third system Wilkerson considers is the race hierarchy instituted by Nazi Germany, but the latter was short-lived and frankly genocidal, whereas the American system lasted for hundreds of years, and the Indian one for thousands. No doubt this is informative, not least when she gets personal, but doesn't it obscure at least one key point? Inequality persists even after formal caste systems are ended, at which point isn't class the more relevant concept?

Meaghan Winter: All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States (2019, Bold Type Books): Title comes from former House Speaker Tip O'Neill's slogan, which in itself doesn't make it convincing or appealing. Still, the argument that the left needs to campaign everywhere is important. It's certainly something that the right understands, not least because in a multi-tiered political system any jurisdiction they can seize can be used to throttle opposition, to prohibit change, and to consolidate power. The right is always seeking to increase its power, thereby increasing inequality and injustice. Any success they have generates resistance, which makes for fertile ground for the left to organize. Or you could look at it from the wrong end of the telescope: we've actually had Democratic presidents with no interest or success at building local parties, and they've proven ineffective and sometimes downright dangerous.

Matthew Yglesias: One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger (2020, Portfolio): Possibly the most successful pundit of the blog era, parlayed that into co-founder of Vox, which is where I get a high percentage of my Weekend Roundup articles from. Won a poll as "neoliberal shill of the year" recently, which doesn't mean all the horrors we often associate with that label, but does still indicate a strong focus on market pricing mechanisms and unbounded growth. This book expands on his posts extolling the benefits of immigration, which is how he hopes to triple the population of the United States. Why that may even be a good thing is hard to say, but evidently he gins up old clichés about keeping or making American number one, faced as it is with competitors like China and India which already have their billion people. That's a really bad reason. By the way:

  • Doug Saunders: Maximum Canada: Toward a Country of 100 Million (paperback, 2019, Vintage Canada).

Daniel Ziblatt: Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy (paperback, 2017, Cambridge University Press): Co-author, with Steven Levitsky, of How Democracies Die (2018), a book much in vogue recently as Trump has eroded and further bespoiled the system of graft and manipulation that has long passed for democracy in America. In his comparative study of the growth of democracy in Europe from 1830 to 1933, Ziblatt argues that expansion of the vote has depended more on what conservative parties decided to allow than on collective action by the middle and/or working classes. Still, don't discount fear of revolution as motivation for conservatives -- Russia is the exception that proves the rule. Another formula for disaster: when conservative parties tried to claw back aristocratic privileges, as the fascists did in the 1920s and 1930s, and the Republicans have tried to do since 1980.


Other recent books, briefly noted.

Peter Baker/Susan Glasser: The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A Baker III (2020, Doubleday): 720 pp.

Susan Berfeld: The Hour of Fate: Theodore Roosevelt, JP Morgan, and the Battle to Transform American Capitalism (2020, Bloomsbury).

John O Brennan: Undaunted: My Fight Against America's Enemies, at Home and Abroad (2020, Caledon Books): Obama's CIA director.

Pete Buttigieg: Trust: America's Best Chance (2020, Liveright).

Irin Carmon/Shana Knizhnik: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2015, Dey Street Books).

Alexis Cole: You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington (2020, Viking).

Andrew Cuomo: American Crisis: Leadership Lessons From the Covid-19 Pandemic (2020, Crown): New York governor.

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett: The Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class (2017; paperback, 2018, Princeton University Press).

Jeremy Dauber: Jewish Comedy: A Serious History (paperback, 2018, WW Norton).

Alan Dershowitz: The Case for Liberalism in an Age of Extremism: Or, Why I Left the Left but Can't Join the Right (2020, Hot Books).

Robin DiAngelo: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (paperback, 2018, Beacon Press).

Leonard Downie Jr: All About the Story: News, Power, Politics, and the Washington Post (2020, Public Affairs).

Rod Dreher: Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents (2020, Sentinel): "Crunchy Con."

Wolfram Ellenberger: Time of the Magicians: Wittgenstein, Benjamin, Cassirer, Heidegger, and the Decade That Reinvented Philosophy (2020, Penguin Press).

Abdul El-Sayed: Healing Politics: A Doctor's Journey Into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic (2020, Abrams Press).

Federico Finchelstein: A Brief History of Fascist Lies (2020, University of California Press).

Stanley Fish: The First: How to Think About Hate Speech, Campus Speeh, Religious Speech, Fake News, Post-Truth, and Donald Trump (2019, Atria/One Signal).

Raúl Gallegos: Crude Nation: How Oil Riches Ruined Venezuela (2016, Potomac Books).

Barton Gellman: Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State (2020, Penguin Press).

Daniel Q Gillion: The Loud Minority: Why Protests Matter in American Democracy (2020, Princeton University Press).

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: My Own Words (paperback, 2018, Simon & Schuster).

Philip H Gordon: Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (2020, St Martin's Press).

Trey Gowdy: Doesn't Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade (2020, Crown Forum).

Ryan Grim: We've Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement (paperback, 2019, Strong Arm Press): Looks like several years of reporting, perhaps going back to the 1980s, but such early stories are constructed (or selected) with an eye to the present.

Richard Haass: The World: A Brief Introduction (2020, Penguin Press). Bush administrations diplomat, Council on Foreign Relations.

Malcolm Harris: Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials (2017, Little Brown; paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books).

John Higgs: Stranger Than We Can Imagine: An Alternative History of the 20th Century (paperback, 2015, Soft Skull Press).

Katie Hill: She Will Rise: Becoming a Warrior in the Battle for True Equality (2020, Grand Central): Elected to Congress, resigned at first hint of scandal, wrote a book.

Harvey J Kaye: Take Hold of Our History: Make America Radical Again (paperback, 2019, Zero Books).

James Kirchick: The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age (2017, Yale University Press).

Jane Kleeb: Harvest the Vote: How Democrats Can Win Again in Rural America (2020, Ecco).

Anthony T Kronman: The Assault on American Excellence (2019, Free Press).

Lawrence Lessig: They Don't Represent Us: Reclaiming Our Democracy (2019, Dey Street Books).

Verlan Lewis: Ideas of Power: The Politics of American Party Ideology Development (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).

Robert Jay Lifton: Losing Reality: On Cults, Cultism, and the Mindset of Political and Religious Zealotry (2019, New Press).

Fredrik Logevall: JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956 (2020, Random House): 816 pp.

Eric Lonergan/Mark Blyth: Angrynomics (paperback, 2020, Agenda).

HR McMaster: Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World (2020, Harper).

Jon Meacham: His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope (2020, Random House). Major biographer, with books on Jefferson, Jackson, Franklin and Winston.

Russell Muirhead/Nancy L Rosenblum: A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy (2019, Princeton University Press).

Thomas E Patterson: How America Lost Its Mind: The Assault on Reason That's Crippling Our Democracy (2019, University of Oklahoma Press).

Thomas E Patterson: Is the Republican Party Destroying Itself? And Why It Needs to Reclaim Its Conservative Ideals (paperback, 2020, independent).

Joshua L Powell: Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Acount of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America (2020, Twelve): Author was a NRA senior strategist and chief of staff to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

Markus Prior: Hooked: How Politics Captures People's Interest (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).

Alex Ross: Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music (2020, Farrar Straus and Giroux). 784 pp.

Douglas Rushkoff: Team Human: Our Technologies, Markets, and Cultural Institutions -- Once Forces for Human Connection and Expression -- Now Isolate and Repress Us. It's Time to Remake Society Together, Not as Individual Players but as the Team We Actually Are (2019, WW Norton).

Jeffrey D Sachs: The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions (2020, Columbia University Press).

Mark Salter: The Luckiest Man: Life With John McCain (2020, Simon & Schuster): The late Senator's long-time ghostwriter.

Antonin Scalia: The Essential Scalia: On the Constitution, the Courts, and the Rule of Law (2020, Crown Forum).

Nathan Schneider: Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy (2018, Bold Type Books).

Al Sharpton: Rise Up: Confronting a Country at the Crossroads (2020, Hanover Square Press).

Vandana Shiva: Who Really Feeds the World? The Failures of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology (paperback, 2016, North Atlantic Books).

Margaret Sullivan: Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy (paperback, 2020, Columbia Global Reports): Washington Post media columnist, 105 pp.

Jennifer Taub: Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime (2020, Viking).

George F Will: The Conservative Sensibility (2018; paperback, 2020, Hachette Books).

Leandra Ruth Zarnow: Battling Bella: The Protest Politics of Bella Abzug (2019, Harvard University Press).

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

More Trump Books

Blog link.

Back in May, I was working on a book roundup, my first since October 2019. I found I had so many books on Trump, his administration, and the 2020 presidential campaign that I thought it best to break them out into a separate post (see: Trump Books), before proceeding to a non-Trump Book Roundup a few days later. In an effort to be comprehensive, I did two things I don't normally do: I included a list of books I had previously noted (some with new or trimmed-down blurbs), and I looked ahead to identify forthcoming books up through the election. I thought I did a pretty thorough job, but it turns out I missed a bunch of books -- especially several bestsellers. I wrote a bit about them in the blog, including a general roundup note on September 7. I promised then to catch up with my next book roundup. Turns out that once again there's enough Trump material -- including a few forthcoming books -- to warrant a separate post.

Again, this will be followed shortly with a regular book roundup. This next post will cover several significant critiques of the Trump era, albeit ones that don't obsess over Trump himself -- prime examples are: Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality, and Thomas Frank: The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism. I may look at the Democratic Party side of the election, but there doesn't seem to be much new there -- I wrote up a fairly long list in the Trump Books post, under Dan Pfeiffer: Un-Trumping America: A Plan to Make America a Democracy Again -- but I do have something written for Seth Masket: Learning From Loss: The Democrats 2016-2020. I'm thinking I might hang a list of Joe Biden books under Evan Osnos' still-forthcoming biography, but it won't be very long.

* Book added since initial posting.


Michael Anton: The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return (2020, Regnery): Publisher is all the signal you need, but here's some background: Anton wrote a famous essay calling 2016 "The Flight 93 Election," because he figured it was better to storm the cockpit and crash the plane than to let Hillary Clinton win. He explains "the stakes" here: "The Democratic Party has become the party of 'identity politics' -- and every one of those identities is defined against a unifying national heritage of patriotism, pride in America's past, and hope for a shared future. . . . Against them is a divided Republican Party. Gravely misunderstanding the opposition, old-style Republicans still seek bipartisanship and accommodation, wrongly assuming that Democrats care about playing by the tiresome old rules laid down in the Constitution and other fundamental charters of American liberty." Previous and related:

  • Michael Anton: After the Flight 93 Election: The Vote That Saved America and What We Still Have to Lose (paperback, 2019, Encounter Books).
  • Mike Gonzalez: The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics Is Dividing the Land of the Free (2020, Encounter Books).
  • James S Robbins: Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past (2018, Regnery): "reveals that the radical Left controls education, the media, and the Democratic party. . . . and they seek to demean, demolish, and relentlessly attack America's past in order to control America's present."
  • Ben Shapiro: How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps (2020, Broadside Books). Less of a tie-in, but let's also note (and dispose) of:
  • Ben Shapiro: Facts (Still) Don't Care About Your Feelings: The Brutally Honest Sequel to the National Smash Hit (paperback, 2020, Creators Publishing).

Devlin Barrett: October Surprise: How the FBI Tried to Save Itself and Crashed an Election (2020, Public Affairs): How FBI head James Comey threw the 2016 election to Donald Trump -- "a pulsating narrative of an agency seized with righteous certainty that waded into the most important political moment in the life of the nation, and has no idea how to back out with dignity."

Maria Bartiromo/James Freeman: The Cost: Trump, China, and American Revival (2020, Threshold Editions). Fox Business face, name much larger on the cover of this propaganda tract, lashing out at Trump's enemies both within government and beyond, but especially "the Chinese communist government." Conclusion: "The destruction caused by the coronavirus is the latest and greatest test for the Trump prosperity agenda." [October 27]

Bob Bauer/Jack Goldsmith: After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency (paperback, 2020, Lawfare Institute): Fifty recommendations for reforming the Presidency, most likely sensible ones especially given the fears that electing a deranged sociopath like Trump elicits. Authors have worked in the White House under Bush II and Obama.

Paul Begala: You're Fired: The Perfect Guide to Beating Donald Trump (2020, Simon & Schuster): Chief strategist for the 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, ran a pro-Obama Super PAC in 2012, has co-authored two books with James Carville. Starts with a "Mea Culpa" for 2016, then a chapter on "Coronavirus," before he starts recycling his greatest hits (e.g., "It's Still the Economy, Stupid."

Tom Burgis: Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World (2020, Harper): "He follows the dirty money that is flooding the global economy, emboldening dictators, and poisoning democracies. From the Kremlin to Beijing, Harare to Riyadh, Paris to the White House," warning that "the thieves are uniting," and "the human cost will be great." Previously wrote The Looting Machine: Warlords, Oligarchs, Corporations, Smugglers, and the Theft of Africa's Wealth (2015).

Michael Cohen: Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J Trump (2020, Skyhorse): Given how many sensible policy reasons one can enumerate for opposing Trump, no one needs to read (much less pay for) this book. But if you want dirt, the premise here is that nobody knows more about a scumbag than another one.

Jerome R Corsi: Coup d'État: Exposing Deep State Treason and the Plan to Re-Elect President Trump (2020, Post Hill Press): Best-selling right-wing author and unindicted Roger Stone co-conspirator. Not sure how I missed this -- perhaps it seemed like a reprint of his 2018 book, Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save President Trump. His conspiracy theories have the advantage of targeting unseen forces that are every bit as troubling to the left, if not to the sort of Democrats who get security clearances. On the other hand, I've missed Corsi books in the past. Here are some:

  • John E O'Neill/Jerome R Corsi: Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry (2004, Regnery).
  • Jerome R Corsi/Craig R Smith: Black Gold Stranglehold: The Myth of Scarcity and the Politics of Oil (2005, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: The Late Great USA: The Coming Merger With Mexico and Canada (2007, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: America for Sale: Fighting the New World Order, Surviving a Global Depression, and Preserving USA Sovereignty (2009, Threshold Editions).
  • Jerome R Corsi: The Shroud Codex (2010, Threshold Editions).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Where's the Birth Certificate? The Case That Barack Obama is Not Eligible to Be President (2011, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: The Great Oil Conspiracy: How the US Government Hid the Nazi Discovery of Abiotic Oil From the American People (2012, Skyhorse).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Who Really Killed Kennedy? 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations About the JFK Assassination (2013, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Bad Samaritans: The ACLU's Relentless Campaign to Erase Faith From the Public Square (2013, Thomas Nelson).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Hunting Hitler: New Scientific Evidence That Hitler Escaped Nazi Germany (2014, Skyhorse).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Partners in Crime: The Clintons' Scheme to Monetize the White House for Personal Profit (2016, WND Books).
  • Jerome R Corsi: How I Became a Political Prisoner of Mueller's "Witch Hunt" (2019, Post Hill Press).
  • Jerome R Corsi: Framing Flynn: The Scandalous Takedown of an American General (2021, Post Hill Press). [January 26]

John W Dean/Bob Altemeyer: Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers (2020, Melville House): The conservative conscience of Nixon's Watergate scandal, became an outspoken critic of GW Bush -- cf. Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W Bush (2004), Conservatives Without Conscience (2006), and Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches (2007) -- was overdue for a broadside on Trump. Probably overwhelmed.

Norman Eisen: A Case for the American People: The United States V. Donald J Trump (2020, Crown): Democrats' special impeachment counsel on the House Judiciary Committee.

Greg Geisler: The Top 300 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Vote for Donald Trump (Even if You Are a Lifelong Republican) (paperback, 2020, independent). First one reads: "Trump is an existential threat to our republic. Trump derogates our long-standing, shared beliefs that have represented who we are as a nation:" -- then enumerates 20 such beliefs, and refers to "Appendix A" for quotes. Amazon's sample doesn't stops before number 3 ("Trump commits treason . . .") is done enumerating the many ways Trump appeases "our enemy, Russia." That's not even a point I would make.

Masha Gessen: Surviving Autocracy (2020, Riverhead Books): Russian, fled to New York as her vitriol against Vladimir Putin increased, has written extensively on him and the stifling of reform politics in Russia. Attempts to draw lessons from there for dealing with Trump here, although a key early chapter is "Waiting for the Reichstag Fire" -- reminding us that autocracy (and for that matter evil) takes various forms which reinforce common assumptions. I don't think it's necessary to view Trump as a malignancy comparable to Hitler or even Putin, but it's also no accident (and really no shame) that some people do.

Jeffrey Goldberg, ed: The American Crisis: What Went Wrong. How We Recover. (paperback, 2020, Simon & Schuster). Fairly substantial (576 pp) collection of essays from The Atlantic, including a 165 page section called "The Age of Trump." There's a lot here, like a 2018 article by Ed Yong called "When the Next Plague Hits" which predicts that Trump won't handle it well.

John R Hibbing: The Securitarian Personality: What Really Motivates Trump's Base and Why It Matters for the Post-Trump Era (2020, Oxford University Press). Posits a slight but key difference between Trump supporters and the supporters of 1930s fascist parties Theodor Adorno characterized in The Authoritarian Personality. These Trumpists crave "protection for themselves, their families, and their dominant cultural group from these embodied outsider threats," while other threats "such as climate change, Covid-19, and economic inequality" hardly phase them at all. That doesn't sound so different to me. Both feel aggrieved, blame others, and seek to crush them and gain privileges thereby, with few qualms about violence -- indeed, many relish the prospect.

Harold Holzer: The Presidents vs the Press: The Endless Battle Between the White House and the Media -- From the Founding Fathers to Fake News. By now there must be a whole shelf of books which pick a topic where Donald Trump is an extreme, unprecedented outlier, and show how the other 44 presidents had their own slightly checkered records. George Washington didn't like how the press treated him, but kept it to himself. John Adams had a much thinner skin. Theodor Roosevelt and John Kennedy were particularly adept at currying favor with reporters. Trump hasn't gone as far as Adams in banning unfavorable press, but he has weaponized the media in ways no one before imagined.

Stephen F Knott: The Lost Soul of the American Presidency: The Decline Into Demagoguery and the Prospects for Renewal (paperback, 2020, University of Kansas Press). Cover pictures George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Donald Trump. Jackson and Trump count among the demagogues, with Knott blaming Jefferson for "paving the way" toward Jackson. Knott, a professor at the US Naval War College, cites several presidents who "resisted pandering": Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, William Howard Taft -- note that two of those were unpopular single-term rejects.

Carlos Lozada: What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era (2020, Simon & Schuster): A Washington Post book critic surveys "some 150 volumes claiming to diagnose why Trump was elected and what his presidency reveals about our nation," and finds them "more defensive than incisive, more righteous than right." I'd like to see the reading list. (Publisher website mentions, without giving authors: Hillbilly Elegy [JD Vance]; On Tyranny [Timothy Snyder]; No Is Not Enough [Naomi Klein]; How to Be an Antiracist [Ibram X Kendi]; The Corrosion of Conservatism [Max Boot].)

Suzanne Mettler/Robert C Lieberman: Four Threats: The Recurring Crises of American Democracy (2020, St Martin's Press): History, explores four threats ("political polarization, racism and nativism, economic inequality, and excessive executive power") through "five moments in history when democracy in the US was under siege: the 1790s, the Civil War [1850s], the Gilded Age [the 1890s], the Depression [1930s], and Watergate [1970s]." As they point out, the present is no less grave.

James A Morone: Republic of Wrath: How American Politics Turned Tribal From George Washington to Donald Trump (2020, Basic Books): Historian, focuses on key elections including most of the ones in Suzanne Mettler/Robert C Lieberman: Four Threats: The Recurring Crises in American History. Polarization is symptomatic of those crises, although the causes are rooted more in injustices that cannot be easily resolved. Last chapter gloms 1968-2020 together as "We Win, They Lose" -- politics as a zero-sum game. Shouldn't be like that.

Michael S Schmidt: Donald Trump V. the United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President (2020, Random House): A detailed history more of the steps leading up to the special counsel appointment of Robert S Mueller than of the subsequent investigation, or the later impeachment case.

Allison Stanger: Whistleblowers: Honesty in America From Washington to Trump (2019, Yale University Press): Short book, the historical period ("From the Revolution to 9/11") a mere 106 pages but helps establish that the need to expose the secretive machinations of government isn't new with "The Internet Age" (the second, shorter part, with Edward Snowden getting his own chapter). Trump is mentioned in the title but slighted in the text: it was, after all, a "whistleblower complaint" that led to his impeachment charges, and that was just one of many, beyond the even more common leaks and efforts to halt them.

Peter Strzok: Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J Trump (2020, Houghton Mifflin): FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence, 22 years with the FBI focusing on Russian espionage threats, purged for his supposed hostility to Trump.

Kevin Sullivan/Mary Jordan: Trump on Trial: The Investigation, Impeachment, Acquittal, and Aftermath (2020, Scribner): Front cover also lists Washington Post, and a "previous books" page leads with four of the newspaper's books, followed by books by Sullivan and/or Jordan. Title page adds "Steve Luxenberg, Editor." They say journalism is the first draft of history, and that's what you get here: yesterday's yellowed papers.

Kristin B Tate: The Liberal Invasion of Red State America (2020, Regnery). Curiously, she tries to have it both ways: claiming there's an exodus from blue states because Democrats have made it too expensive to live there, but also blaming those same "refugees" for making red states purplish or even blue (Colorado and New Hampshire are examples of the latter). A serious scholar could try to refine this further, but wouldn't get her book published by Regnery.

Mary L Trump: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020, Simon & Schuster): The President's niece, daughter of his older brother Fred Jr, also flaunts her PhD in psychology, which gives her a unique angle, and an insider advantage over the other shrinks who have merely imagined Trump on their couches. It's one thing to check off the boxes on mental maladies like narcissistic personality disorder, another to locate their causes in this peculiar family dynamic.

Madeleine Westerhout: Off the Record: My Dream Job at the White House, How I Lost It, and What I Learned (2020, Center Street). Former executive assistant to Trump. Not clear what her faux pas was, but even after being fired she's still sucking up to Trump.

Tim Weiner: The Folly and the Glory: America, Russia, and Political Warfare 1945-2020 (2020, Henry Holt): Author of major books on the CIA (Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA) and the FBI (Enemies: A History of the FBI). The Cold War chapters are probably old hat, succinctly told, but I have to wonder how deep he gets into the post-Soviet era, especially US efforts to rig elections in the Ukraine, and even in Russia itself (Yeltsin was not a US puppet, but various Clinton aides worked for his election).

Andrew Weissmann: Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation (2020, Random House): Lead prosecutor under Mueller, whose unredacted report still hasn't been made public.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady (2020, Gallery Books): Former aide to Mrs. Trump, "trusted adviser," and event planner, burns a friendship going back to 2003, revealing both author and subject to be as vain and tedious as you'd expect.

Bob Woodward: Rage (2020, Simon & Schuster): The exalted court reporter's second Trump book, after 2018's Fear, burned some bridges this time, especially with his February recording of a semi-coherent understanding of the coronavirus pandemic threat even before he started minimizing the threat in public, paving the way for his incompetent management -- the only sense in which he can claim to have made America "number one."


More Trump books are briefly noted below. I'm roughly dividing this into two lists: the first is by Trump/Republican partisans, which should give you an idea of how deceitful and/or deranged they can be; the other not just by opponents, but includes academics and other writers who strive to be fair, balanced, and objective. Of course, those who succeed, and retain a shred of concern for their fellows, wind up being opponents. The top section includes some of both, but they should be easy enough to sort out from the blurbs. (If you need help, I would have filed the following under propaganda: Anton, et al.; Bartiromo; Corsi; Tate; Westerhout. Several others started out in the Trump camp, or at least counted themselves as conservatives, before developing doubts.)


Trump propaganda, briefly noted:

TM Ballantyne Jr: Trump: The First 100 Days: The Assault Intensifies (paperback, 2017, Ballantyne Books).

Allum Bokhari: #Deleted: Big Tech's Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal the Election (2020, Center Street).

Dan Bongino: Follow the Money: The Shocking Deep State Connections of the Anti-Trump Cabal (2020, Post Hill Press). [October 6]

Brian Burch: A New Catholic Moment: Donald Trump and the Politics of the Common Good (paperback, 2020, independent).

*Michael R Caputo: The Ukraine Hoax: How Decades of Corruption in the Former Soviet Republic Led to Trump's Phony Impeachment (2020, Bombardier Books).

Steve Cioccolanti: President Trump's Pro-Christian Accomplishments (paperback, 2020, Discover Media).

Dan Crenshaw: Fortitude: American Resilience in the Era of Outrage (2020, Twelve): A "rising star in Republican politics."

Dinesh D'Souza: United States of Socialism: Who's Behind It. Why It's Evil. How to Stop It. (2020, All Points Books).

*Tom Fitton: A Republic Under Assault: The Left's Ongoing Attack on American Freedom (2020, Threshold Editions). [October 20]

Matt Gaetz: Firebrand: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the MAGA Revolution (2020, Bombardier Books).

*Rick Gates: Wicked Game: An Insider's Story on How Trump Won, Mueller Failed, and America Lost (2020, Post Hill Press).

Sean Hannity: Live Free or Die: American (and the World) on the Brink (2020, Threshold Editions).

Mike Huckabee/Steve Feazel: The Three Cs That Made America Great: Christianity, Capitalism and the Constitution (2020, Trilogy Christian Publishing).

Jerome Hudson: 50 Things They Don't Want You to Know About Trump (paperback, 2020, Harper Collins): Entertainment editor at Breitbart.com. [October 27]

Michael Knight: President Trump and the New World Order: The Ramtha Trump Prophecy (paperback, 2017, North Star).

*Fred V Lucas: Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump (2020, Bombardier).

*Theodore Roosevelt Malloch/Felipe J Cuello: Trump's World: Geo Deus (2020, Humanix Books).

Matt Margolis: Airborne: How the Liberal Media Weaponized the Coronavirus Against Donald Trump (paperback, 2020, Bombardier Books).

Florance McKoy: What Donald Trump Means to America: A Black Woman Shares What God Shows Her About This 45th President of the United States (paperback, 2020, Impact Communications).

Devin Nunes: Countdown to Socialism (paperback, 2020, Encounter Books).

Candace Owens: Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape From the Democrat Plantation (2020, Threshold Editions).

Carter Page: Abuse and Power: How an Innocent American Was Framed in an Attempted Coup Against the President (2020, Regnery).

TJ Paine: Qanon Phenomenon: A Detailed Report on the "Storm" That Is About to Destroy the Deep State That Conspires Against the United States and on the "Great Awakening" That Will Make America Great Again! (paperback, 2020, independent).

Rand Paul: The Case Against Socialism (2019, Broadside Books).

Jeanine Pirro: Don't Lie to Me: And Stop Trying to Steal Our Freedom (2020, Center Street).

Joel B Pollak: Red November: Will the Country Vote Red for Trump or Red for Socialism? (2020, Center Street).

Phil Robertson: Jesus Politics: How to Win Back the Soul of America (2020, Thomas Nelson): Duck Dynasty dude.

Darrell Scott: Nothing to Lose: Unlikely Allies in the Struggle for a Better Black America (2020, Post Hill Press).

Robert Isaac Skidmore: Edge of the Abyss: The Usefulness of Antichrist Terminology in the Era of Donald Trump (2020, Chiron Publications).

Lee Smith: The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President (2020, Center Street).

Franko Solar: The Sky Is Falling! Blame Trump: Why Democrats Want to Impeach Donald J Trump (paperback, 2020, La Maison).

Neville Teller: Trump and the Holy Land 2016-2020: The Deal of the Century (paperback, 2020, Troubador).

Cal Thomas: America's Expiration Date: The Fall of Empires and Superpowers . . . and the Future of the United States (paperback, 2020, Zondervan).

Donald Trump Jr: Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats' Defense of the Indefensible (2020, Donald J Trump Jr).

Harry Turtledove/James Morrow/Cat Rambo: And the Last Trump Shall Shound: A Future History of America (paperback, 2020, Caezik).

Kendall L Walker: A Biblical Evaluation of the Morals and Ethics of Donald Trump (paperback, 2020, independent).


Other Trump-related books, briefly noted. These are not necessarily useful or interesting, but aren't obviously right-wing propaganda. My earlier post included a whole section of humor/parody books, but I didn't find more of those worth noting. (Humor has been invaluable during the last 3.75 years, but I'm not feeling it at the moment.)

Daniel Allott: On the Road in Trump's America: A Journey Into the Heart of a Divided Nation (2020, Republic). [October 20]

*Christopher F Arndt: The Right's Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound: From Hayek to Trump (paperback, 2016, Bulkington Press).

*Anthony Atamanuik/Neil Casey: American Tantrum: The Donald J Trump Presidential Archives (paperback, 2019, Harper Collins): Satire.

Isaac J Bailey: Why Didn't We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland (2020, Other Press). [October 6]

Amanuel Biedemariam: The History of the USA in Eritrea: From Franklin D Roosevelt to Barack Obama and How Donald Trump Changed the Course of History (paperback, 2020, Lulu.com).

Nina Burleigh: The Trump Women: Part of the Deal (paperback, 2020, Gallery Books).

*Geraldo Cadava: The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, From Nixon to Trump (2020, Ecco).

Zachary Callen/Philip Rocco, eds: American Political Development and the Trump Presidency (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).

SV Dáte: The Useful Idiot: How Donald Trump Killed the Republican Party With Racism and the Rest of Us With Coronavirus (paperback, 2020, independent).

*Bill Eddy: Why We Elect Narcissists and Sociopaths: And How We Can Stop! (2019, Berrett-Koehler).

*Randolph M Feezell: The ABCs of Trump: Asshole, Bullshitter, Chauvinist, Essays on Life in Trumpworld (2020, Randolph M Feezell).

Sally Frazer: Fire & Blood, Fire & Fury: Daenerys Targaryen, Donald Trump, and the American Public's Enduring Susceptibility to Authoritarian Figures (paperback, 2020, independent).

*John Gartner: All I Ever Wanted to Know About Donald Trump I Learned From His Tweets: A Psychological Exploration of the President Via Twitter (paperback, 2017, Skyhorse).

Mark Green/Ralph Nader: Wrecking America: How Trump's Lawbreaking and Lies Betray All (paperback, 2020, Skyhorse).

*Lawrence Grossberg: Under the Cover of Chaos: Trump and the Battle for the American Right (paperback, 2018, Pluto Press).

Michael B Harrington: The Forty Year Con Game: Everything You Need to Know About Donald Trump's Threat to Democracy (paperback, 2019, Author Solutions).

Kelly Hyman: Top Ten Reasons to Dump Trump in 2020 (paperback, 2019, Strauss Consultants).

*Charlie Laderman/Brendan Simms: Donald Trump: The Making of a World View (paperback, 2017, Bloomsbury Academic).

*Yuval Levin: A Time to build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream (2020, Basic Books): AEI.

*Matt K Lewis: Too Dumb to Fail: How the GOP Went From the Party of Reagan to the Party of Trump (paperback, 2016, Hachette).

Janet McIntosh/Norma Mendoza-Denton, eds: Language in the Trump Era: Scandals and Emergencies (paperback, 2020, Cambridge University Press).

Shannon Bow O'Brien: Donald Trump and the Kayfabe Presidency: Professional Wrestling Rhetoric in the White House

PJ O'Rourke: A Cry From the Far Middle: Dispatches From a Divided Land (2020, Atlantic Monthly Press).

Brian L Ott/Greg Dickinson: The Twitter Presidency: Donald J Trump and the Politics of White Rage (2020, Routledge).

Rodney S Patterson: Trumping the Race Card: A National Agenda, Moving Beyond Race and Racism (paperback, 2019, Learner's Group).

*Douglas E Schoen/Jessica Tarlov: America in the Age of Trump: A Bipartisan Guide (paperback, 2018, Encounter Books).

*Jennifer M Silva: We're Still Here: Pain and Politics in the Heart of America (2019, Oxford University Press).

Theda Skocpol/Caroline Tervo, eds: Upending American Politics: Polarizing Parties, Ideological Elites, and Citizen Activists From the Tea Party to the Anti-Trump Resistance (paperback, 2020, Oxford University Press).

Terry Silverman: 1000 Dumbest Things Donald Trump Has Said and Done (paperback, 2020, independent).

*Scott Stedman: Real News: An Investigative Reporter Uncovers the Foundations of the Trump-Russia Conspiracy (2019, Skyhorse).

Strobe Talbott: Our Founders' Warning: The Age of Reason Meets the Age of Trump (2020, Brookings Institution Press).

Tom Telcholz: The Worst President Ever: Prominent Republican and Former Trump Administration Officials Speak Out Against Trump (paperback, 2020, independent).

Barney Warf, ed: Political Landscapes of Donald Trump (paperback, 2020, Routledge). [October 29]

Tahmina Watson: Legal Heroes in the Trump Era (2020, Tahmina Watson).

*Darrell M West: Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict in the Trump Era (2020, Brookings Institution Press).

*Alexander Zaitchik: The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump's America (2016, Hot Books).


I might as well mention my own not-yet-book, tentatively titled The Last Days of American Empire IV: Extracts From a Notebook (.odt format, and large), which covers 2017 up to last week (more forthcoming). The title seemed more obvious as I was compiling Volume I, which covers the GW Bush years, 2001-08. It was clear from his initial overreach after 9/11/2001 that Bush was going to push the American Empire past its breaking point. Indeed, that was the one point Osama Bin Laden got right in provoking America into its Global War on Terror. Nothing since then has changed my mind, so I kept the title through Obama's presidency, covered in Volume II and Volume III, although by then the rot seemed more reflected at home, in ever increasing inequality and an increasing sense of injustice. But where Obama at least seemed to recognize problems and was intent on patching them up with as little inconvenience to the rich as possible, Trump has repeatedly blown things up, stripping away any semblance of normalcy or even rational planning. Indeed, the driving motivation in chronicling the last four years as been dumbfounded wonder at how destructive a politician could be.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34182 [34142] rated (+40), 212 [217] unrated (-5).

Let's get this over with quick. Seems like it's been a slow, annoying, frustrating week. I wanted to get a book piece done, but didn't. At the moment, I have about 20 tabs opened to possible books, and I want to get through them before I upgrade my computer software (Xubuntu 18 to 20), so I need to move on to that. I did manage to publish a batch of answers to reader questions last week. One of those questions was really just encouragement to follow through on a previous week's threat to mock up a 50-album all-time best ballot, which I sort of did.

Phil Overeem did his own ballot exercise, which is the source for the "old music" listed below. A lot of Memphis psychobilly on his list, which I'm naturally inclined to like but not revere, so my (usually one-play) grades are muted. I didn't jot down a proper checklist, so I missed some things -- mostly old albums by groups I know well from compilations (e.g., The "5" Royales). Double checking, I found two more albums I once owned but hadn't listed in my database (Drifters, George Jones), but remember well enough I feel I can assign them grades (A and A-; a better Jones comp is the earlier Cup of Loneliness, although my first pick is the career-spanning 2-CD box, The Spirit of Country: The Essential George Jones; as for the Drifters, Rhino's 1993 The Very Best of the Drifters is perfect for the 1959-64 group; the 2-CD All-Time Greatest Hits and More: 1959-1965 doesn't fall off much; and while all of the above ignore the early Drifters, Let the Boogie Roll: The Greatest Hits 1953-1958 is also solid A-, as is Clyde McPhatter's post-Drifters Deep Sea Ball: The Best of Clyde McPhatter).

I had more trouble with the various artist picks. It Came From Memphis, Volume 1 is probably the 1995 blues comp on Upstart -- Napster has a Volume 2 but not this one. I'm far less certain about Sweet Soul Music: as best I can tell, the choices are: a 1980 Atlantic (16 songs, with Arthur Conley's title hit); a 1987 J&B (17 songs, Conley again, Atlantics leaning heavy on Franklin-Redding-Pikett); a 1988 Stax (subtitle: The Stax Groups, 13 songs, most obscure); a 1992 Sire (subtitle: Voices From the Shadows, a tie-in with Peter Guralnick's book; and a 1995 K-Tel (26 songs, leads with Sam & Dave's cover, mostly great songs but scattered as far as "One Fine Day" and "Midnight at the Oasis"). My guess is that Overeem probably means the Sire, with its relatively obscure Memphis focus -- he seems to have a thing for Memphis (also for New Orleans).

Could be that some of the B+ records might kick in after a few plays. I listened to Fairport Chronicles on YouTube, which is never ideal, but I've never been that big of a fan. I've never liked the Ramones as much as many friends do, so while It's Alive was pretty good, it didn't strike me as special. If memory serves, I saw them once live, as the opening act for Iggy Pop (or was it the Clash?); either way, they were good but not that great. I'll also note that I was in a particularly bad mood when I played Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes, which didn't start to clear up until "Mack the Knife." For the record, I also have her 1960 Ella in Berlin at B+, which puts it behind a lot of superior records.

Will get back to the book post after this. Should finish catching up the Trump book draft this week. Not sure what else, other than some cooking -- red cooked ham tonight, with stir-fried bok choy; will do twice-cooked pork sooner or later this week, and have a few more things in the refrigerator that need attending -- and some yard work, while it's still nice out.

Applied for mail-in Kansas ballots, but haven't received them yet. Looks like they're being sent out later this week. It's important that all Americans vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and for all Kansans to vote for Barbara Bollier for Senate. I'm also looking forward to voting for Democrats down ballot, especially James Thompson for one of the judgeships. If you don't understand why, download the book link above start picking out random pages (there's 2,346 to choose from).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Ammar 808: Global Control/Invisible Invasion (2019 [2020], Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Angel-Ho: Alla Prima (2020, Hyperdub, EP): [r]: B
  • Valentin Ceccaldi: Ossos (2017 [2020], Cipsela): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jay Clayton/Jerry Granelli: Alone Together (2020, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brent Cobb: Keep 'Em on They Toes (2020, Ol' Buddy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marie Davidson/L'OEil Nu: Renegade Breakdown (2020, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nir Felder: II (2020, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Noah Haidu: Doctone (2020, Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mary Halvorson's Code Girl: Artlessly Falling (2019 [2020], Firehouse 12): [cd]: B [10-30]
  • Loraine James: Nothing (2020, Hyperdub, EP): [r]: B
  • Alicia Keys: Alicia (2020, RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adam Kolker: Lost (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christian McBride Big Band: For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver (2020, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Johnny Nicholas: Mistaken Identity (2020, Valcour): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Olatuja: Lagos Pepper Soup (2020, Whirlwind): [r]: B+(*)
  • Potsa Lotsa XL: Silk Songs for Space Dogs (2019 [2020], Leo): [r]; A-
  • Rempis/Rosaly Duo: Codes/Myths (2018 [2020], Aerophonic, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The Ridiculous Trio: The Ridiculous Trio Plays the Stooges (2020, Modern Harmonic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sault: Untitled (Rise) (2020, Forever Living Originals): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ray Suhy & Lewis Porter Quartet: Transcendent (2020, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luís Vicente: Maré (2017 [2020], Cipsela): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Amber Weekes: The Gathering (2020, Amber Inn Productions): [cd]: B
  • What Happens in a Year: Cérémonie/Musique (2018 [2020], FiP): [cd]: B+(*) [10-09]
  • Walter White: BB XL (2020, Walter White Music): [cd]: B
  • Nate Wooley: Seven Storey Mountain VI (2019 [2020], Pyroclastic): [cd]: B+(*) [10-16]
  • Yo La Tengo: We Have Amnesia Sometimes (2020, Matador): [r]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Ella Fitzgerald: Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes (1962 [2020], Verve, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • The Cramps: Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980, IRS): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Cramps: Bad Music for Bad People (1977-81 [1984], IRS): [yt]: B+(*)
  • The Dirtbombs: Horndog Fest (1998, In the Red): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Dirtbombs: Ultraglide in Black (2001, In the Red): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Dirtbombs: Dangerous Magical Noise (2003, In the Red): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fairport Convention: Fairport Chronicles (1968-72 [1976], A&M): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Tav Falco/Panther Burns: 10th Anniversary Live LP: Midnight in Memphis (1989 [1990], New Rose): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lee Perry "The Upsetter" Presents: Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread (1978 [1992], VP): [r]: A-
  • Ramones: It's Alive (1977 [1979], Sire): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shaver: Unshaven: Live at Smith's Olde Bar (1995, Zoo Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Link Wray: Rumble: The Best of Link Wray (1958-79 [1993], Rhino): [yt]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Fred Hersch: Songs From Home (Palmetto) [11-06]
  • The JCA Orchestra: Live at the BPC (JCA) [11-06]
  • Angelica Sanchez & Marilyn Crispell: How to Turn the Moon (Pyroclastic)

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Blog link.

Got a late start, by which time I was so annoyed and frustrated that I merely went through the motions. Hoped to get three things done during the week: a new batch of questions and answers, including a ballot exercise for a list of all-time greatest records; a books post (not yet done); and an update to my collection of Trump-era (2017 et seq) blog posts (thought I had it done, then decided to append some earlier Trump references, which I didn't get done (for the .odt file; link will still work when I catch up; beware that it is currently 874,147 words, 2,346 pages; there is a fair amount of redundancy there, but also a lot to be outraged about). I thought the latter might be useful for trying to write an endorsement letter like I did for Kerry vs Bush in 2004. But while I thought it important to try to construct a strong logical case back then, I'm not sure that's worth the effort this year. One could enumerate hundreds or thousands of reasons why Trump should be denied a second term, but the most fundamental one is: aren't you simply embarrassed that this guy has been given any measure of constitutional power in the United States of America? And if you aren't, why? I usually make a serious effort to understand how other people think, but I can't imagine any defense of Trump. If that isn't obvious enough, download the book, and read this week's addition (not yet in the book, but coming soon).

Another possible project would be to edit those 2,346 pages down to something humanly readable. But right now, I'm not sure how much practical benefit that would offer. Or how much work I can possibly put into such a project. Election day is less than a month ago. If Biden wins, Trump will be history, and probably forgotten as quickly as GW Bush was after 2008. And if Trump wins, the future will be bleak indeed, not least because the stabilizing force of democracy will be so thoroughly discredited. Indeed, one of the most bizarre things about this election is how hard Trump is working to make sure that even if he wins, he won't have any legitimacy left to govern, because he's gone so far out of his way to discredit the entire electoral process. If you are a person with a stake in the system, you cannot afford to give him another term.

And two more obvious points: the only real way to vote Trump out is to vote for Biden-Harris -- regardless of what you think of Biden-Harris (and frankly I don't think much of either); and while Trump is loathsome and obnoxious on a personal level far and beyond his party (including his VP Pence), the real harm he has done to this country has been his promotion of mainstream Republicans -- to the judiciary, to run the bureaucracy, to let lobbyists pollute the environment and get away with predatory business practices, to make the world a much more dangerous and hateful place. Hence, you should not only vote Trump out, but take his whole Party down with him. Our future depends on it.

This week's topics are much like last week's topics:


The Covid-19 Pandemic and the White House

Alex Abad-Santos: Even while sick with Covid-19, Trump sees masks as a symbol of weakness.

Eliza Barclay: Trump and his staff's refusal to wear a face mask is a catastrophe.

Julia Belluz: No, the Regeneron drug Trump received is not a Covid-19 "cure". One thing that's disturbing about Trump is how readily he likes to offer himself as a pitchman.

Troy Closson: 80-year-old is killed after asking bar patron to wear a mask.

Jahnavi Curlin: I'm a contact tracer. Trump's advice not to fear Covid-19 is dangerous. "I talk to people with Covid-19 almost every day. Trump's experience of the disease couldn't be more different from theirs."

Chas Danner:

Sheila Kaplan: White House blocked CDC from requiring masks on public transportation.

Eric Lach: Donald Trump's campaign rallies are now confirmed public-health hazards.

German Lopez:

Olivia Nuzzi: The entire presidency is a superspreading event.

Kelsey Piper: Photos of Trump's reckless activities, ranked by their Covid-19 risk.

Kaleigh Rogers: What are the possible side effects of Trump's Covid-19 treatment?

Aaron Rupar: The White house won't say when Trump's last negative coronavirus test was. Here's why it matters.

Melody Schreiber:

Dylan Scott: Trump has been the biggest source of Covid-19 misinformation, study finds.

Joanne Silberner: Why Covid-19 cases are surging in the UK.

Emily Stewart: The Trump-related coronavirus cases we'll never hear about.

Libby Watson:

Jeff Wise: For Trump, the most dangerous Covid phase lies ahead.

The VP Debate

I don't watch debates any more. At their best, you get one (or two) candidates skillfully navigating the conventional wisdom while trying to land a couple of memorable zingers. I remember Reagan-Mondale in 1984, which Mondale totally dominated on points and logic (not that I in any way enjoyed how belligerently anti-Communist he came off), but all the history books remember was Reagan's zinger ("I won't hold my opponent's inexperience against him"), plus Reagan's landslide that November. At worst, you get someone as boorish and ignorant as Donald Trump, and I've seen more than enough of him. Evidently, Pence avoided the worst by not being Trump, yet he had to tread carefully lest he offend his master, so he just tried to spin what he could, and duck the rest. He may not be as flagrantly loathsome as Trump, but his greater deliberation and cunning strike me as even worse traits. One thing the debate has done is to give us pause to reflect on his reign as VP. He has been every bit as consequential as Dick Cheney, for much the same reason: a weak, shallow, needy leader, and the opportunity to stock the upper reaches of government with his extended crony network. If he's underrated, it's because he's done all this with less fanfare than Cheney, and he's repeatedly had to prostrate and humiliate himself before Trump's overweening ego.

Vox [Emily Stewart/German Lopez/Ella Nilsen/Li Zhou/Anna North/Dylan Matthews]: 5 winners and 3 losers from the vice presidential debate: Winners: Kamala Harris; Covid-19, Boringness ("Mike Pence is boring"; "But on Wednesday night, Pence's boringness was a strength"); #KHive; The fly. Losers: Infrastructure week; Ordinary Americans impacted by Covid-19; Susan Page. Possible research subject: Has there ever been a debate where the moderator wasn't a loser?

538/Ipsos (Laura Bronner/Aaron Bycoffe/Elena Mejia/Julia Wolfe): Who won the vice presidential debate? "Harris got higher marks for her performance -- and her policies." Harris led in "popularity contest" metrics, and improved more over the debate (+6 favorability compared to +2 for Pence). Harris led favorable 51-39; unfavorable was Harris 41, Pence 53.

Matthew Cooper: Pence was pretty good. Harris was better.

Susan B Glasser: Mike Pence's Trumpian makeover.

Trump, though, is immune to embarrassment -- his lack of shame has long been one of his political superpowers -- and so it must be for those around him. Among the many questions that Pence refused to answer was one of the week's more obvious, given the large cluster of coronavirus cases in the White House and the President's own illness after months of refusing to wear a mask or observe social distancing: Why should the American people listen when you tell them to abide by public-health guidelines that you yourself refuse to follow? Pence's response was a model of misdirection, which had something to do with the Green New Deal and the coming government takeover of health care under the radical-left Democrats. Harris could only look on in amazement, shaking her head at the brazenness.

Sarah Jones: Trump won't debate unless there's a risk of infecting Biden. "At least the CPD has blocked him from accomplishing the 21st-century equivalent of pitching a plague corpse at an enemy."

Jen Kirby: About that fly in the vice presidential debate. Needless to say, a dozen or more people I know responded by linking to videos of Wire's videos I Am the Fly -- not just because it's the most famous song about flies, but because you could imagine it as Pence's soundtrack: "I shake you down to say please/ As you accept the next dose of disease."

Eric Levitz: No one won the Pence-Harris debate. But Trump lost. "The jarringly normal debate drove home how much worse Trump is at politics than his 'generic Republican' running mate."

Jason Linkins: Kamala Harris and Mike Pence tried to have a normal debate. It didn't quite work.

Martin Longman: Is Trump chickening out of more debates?

Josh Marshall: Not even close.

I wouldn't say Harris wowed. There weren't a lot of zingers. But she hit every last point the campaign could have asked for. Just methodically. Killing the ACA, Charlottesville, the horrific failure of the COVID response. She didn't really care about Mike Pence. She was there to make a case against Donald Trump. And she did.

Nicole Narea: A post-debate focus group of undecided voters suggests that Kamala Harris faces an uphill battle.

Terry Nguyen: Why Mike Pence's pink-looking eye caused so much speculation.

Anna North: What a Pence presidency would look like: "We've already seen a lot of what he might do."

Ella Nilsen: The second debate between Trump and Biden is canceled.

Dylan Scott: Mike Pence tried to blame Kamala Harris for undermining a Covid-19 vaccine. But the public blames Trump.

Amy Davidson Sorkin: Covid-19 at the vice-presidential debate.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: A fly in the ointment. Weekly column, starts with the debate (almost live-blogging), noting among other things that "in medieval art, a fly was often paintedon a liar and moral hypocrite." More substantively:

Pence put himself in the difficult position of making Harris look like she was weak on crime while, at the same time, being an over-zealous prosecutor. Of course, the kind of crimes Harris was weak on are the very financial crimes committed by the current Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin. It was a point Pence couldn't press and Harris couldn't defend.

St Clair eventually moves on to other topics. He offers a table of "new Covid-19 cases in the last 7 days: Vietnam - 5, Taiwan - 9, Yemen - 10, New Zealand - 25, White House - 34." He adds, "The Trump administration hasn't delivered this many positive results since, well, ever."

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: Out-of-touch, incoherent foreign poicy on display in Harris-Pence showdown.

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: A straightforward vice-presidential debate about a catastrophic presidency.

Matthew Yglesias: Mike Pence played a weak hand well.

Other Aspects of the Campaign and Elections

Katelyn Burns:

John Cassidy: Donald Trump's loopy self-pity tour of conservative media outlets.

Isaac Chotiner: How to make sense of the polls. Interview with Sean Trende, of Real Clear Politics.

Summer Concepcion: Here's how Trumpworld is rallying behind Covid-infected POTUS return to campaign trail. Spots on Larry Kudlow, Eric Trump, Lara Trump, and Ronna McDaniel.

John F Harris/Melanie Zanoma: Republicans are finally ready to diss Don: I think they're grasping at straws here. Trump will be fair game if he loses, especially dragging lots of Republicans down with him, but until then few have the mettle to disrespect him, especially given that his fans are bred to be even more vindictive than the average Republican. That there's any equivocation at all signifies a much broader fear over the election. Conversely, the only reason GOP mandarins flocked to him was when he proved himself as a miracle winner in 2016.

Jen Kirby: The battle over a Texas order limiting ballot drop-off locations, explained.

Nancy LeTourneau: The media is spreading Trump's lies about mail-in voting.

Julia Lurie: Private prisons have spent more on this election than any other in history.

Nick Martin: North Carolina's labyrinthine voting nightmare: "A mix of Trumpian meddling, legal holdups, and a bureaucratic mess is putting Black voters at risk this election.

Aaron Rupar: "They want to take care of certain little tiny fish": Trump's Hannity interview was off the rails.

Paige Williams: Inside the Lincoln Project's war against Trump.

Li Zhou: "Mr Vice President, I'm speaking": Kamala Harris repeatedly shut down Mike Pence's interruptions at the debate.

Still More on Donald Trump

David Atkins: Trump is the most crooked president in American history. That should matter.

Andrea Bernstein: Pattern of deception: From Trump family business to grifter in chief.

Jonathan Chait: Trump's lifelong obsession with his superior DNA is being put to the test.

Fabiola Cineas: Donald Trump is the accelerant: "A comprehensive timeline of Trump encouraging hate groups and political violence." Timeline starts in June, 2015, with details on 42 separate instances.

Steve Coll: Donald Trump's consistent unreliability on Covid, and everything else. "It is painful to reflect on the tens of thousands of lives that might have been saved if a less reality-challenged President had occupied the White House."

Tyler Cullis: The undeniable cruelty of Trump's 'maximum pressure' on Iran.

John F Harris/Daniel Lippman: Amateur hour at the Trump White House: "The coronavirus outbreak at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is just one facet of a much deeper presidential malaise."

Fred Kaplan:

Kevin Liptak: Trump calls in for rambling and ugly post-hospital interview.

Josh Marshall: Folks, the Executive Branch needs an audit.

Nicole Narea:

Doug Palmer: Why Trump lost his battle against the trade deficit: "The monthly deficit in US goods trade with all other countries set a record high in August at more than $83 billion." Shouldn't this have been the key metric to determine whether Trump's promises on jobs and trade, and his flirtation with tariffs, been judged on? As noted here, Turmp's trade adviser Peter Navarro "predicted in 2016 [the trade gap] could be erased in one or two years." One might counter that today's results are the simple extension of longer-term trends, but you have to admit that Trump did nothing to budge them.

JC Pan:

  • Melania Trump's charmed pandemic life: "The first lady once again gets off light -- thanks to a gullible media and an incredibly low bar set by her husband." Just a thought, but I haven't seen a single report on her illness beyond the initial positive test. Does she really have the disease? Certainly plausible, given how many people in and around the White House have contracted it. On the other hand, how would it look if the president got it and she didn't?

  • A thrilling week inside Trump's flailing masculinity death cult: "The president was sick -- but strong! Actively infections -- but still man enough to debate!"

Alex Shephard:

Supreme Court, and Other Injustices

David Atkins: Republicans have already packed the courts. It's up to Democrats how to rebalance them. Amen.

Dahlia Lithwick: We know exactly how Amy Coney Barrett will unravel Roe.

Ian Millhiser: The bizarre abortion order just handed down by the Supreme Court, briefly explained.

Tom Scocca: Amy Coney Barrett is as cynical as Trump.

Adam Wren: How Amy Coney Barrett's religious group helped shape a city: "The People of Praise isn't well-understood by outsiders, but its influence -- and social conservatism -- run deeply through this Indiana city.".

The Economy With No Stimulus Deal

Josh Barro: Wall Street got what it wanted from Trump and is ready for Biden.

Katelyn Burns: Stimulus talks are at an impasse as Senate Republicans object to White House package.

Jane Coaston: Trump's stimulus obstruction excites fiscal conservatives -- and no one else. I was going to ask why are these fiscal conservatives. The article names Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore, who've never considered the possibility that tax cuts for the rich might increase the deficit.

Ed Kilgore: Erratic Trump is all over the place on stimulus deal.

Paul Krugman:

  • The very strong case for Bidenomics: "The former vice president's tax and spending claims are credible; Trump's aren't."

  • Bidencare would be a big deal: "Don't dismiss it because it isn't Medicare for All. Krugman has long been the most effective proponent of ACA, possibly because he concedes the point that Medicare for All would be better. His pet tactic is to argue that ACA could be made as effective at the key goal of universal coverage -- sure, a bit more expensively, but at a more realistic political cost. But here all he seems to be offering is to throw more money at the problems, without any real hope of limiting the drain. I don't doubt that Biden could reform ACA for the better, but it still looks like a lost cause.

  • Trump is killing the economy out of spite. It's really not just Trump, although he does a remarkably poor job of hiding his intent. But Republicans have been soliciting votes for fear of the sabotage they'd inflict on Democrats if Republicans lost. Deficit spending is OK as long as the Republicans are in power. The government won't be shut down (at least until Trump). Republicans aren't going to brow eat one of their own into starting a war (unless he really wants to). I've long thought that one of the reasons Hillary lost was that the people decided they wanted to spare her the endless string of phony scandals Republicans have long been able to nag her about. I've never understood why people (or the media) would put up with extortion, but somehow Republicans never got blamed for being bastards. Somehow, it was their brand, their charm. So why shouldn't Trump wreck everything on his way out? Who's going to blame him?

    I don't know whether Trump expects to lose the election. But he's already acting like a deeply embittered man, lashing out at people he feels have treated him unfairly, which is basically everyone. And as usual he reserves special rage for smart, tough women; on Thursday he called Kamala Harris a "monster."

    Yet getting a relief deal would have required accepting a compromise with that "nasty" woman Nancy Pelosi. And it seems that he would rather let the economy burn.

    The thing is, if he's behaving like this now, when he still has some chance of winning, how will he act if he loses?

Eric Levitz: The GOP is sabotaging Trump's economy a month before election day. Here's why. "McConnell can afford to walk away from Covid relief because the Senate's partisan skew tightly limits how many seats his party can lose."

Matthew Yglesias:

Gretchen Whitmer's Close Call

Anna North: "The woman in Michigan": How Gretchen Whitmer became a target of right-wing hate.

Cristina Cabrera: Trump attacks Whitmer after Feds foil plot to kidnap her, complains she hasn't thanked him.

Amy Cooter: Lessons from embedding with the Michigan militia -- 5 questions answered about the group allegedly plotting to kidnap a governor.

Fred Kaplan: The face of American insurgency: "The Michigan plot wasn't about Donald Trump. It goes deeper than that." I advise taking the Trump disclaimer with a bit of salt. Two of the six indicted took part in the anti-lockdown armed occupation of the Michigan State House, which may not have been directed by the White House, but was hinted at in statements both before and after the event.

Andrew Prokop: Charges announced in plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan.

Robert Snell/Melissa Nann Burke: Plans to kidnap Whitmer, overthrow government spoiled, officials say.

Miscellaneous

Fabiola Cineas: Tropical depression Delta brings heavy rain and wind to the Gulf Coast. More fair to refer to it as Hurricane Delta. It was a Category 4 in the Caribbean before crossing over the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and grew back to Category 3 in the Gulf of Mexico, before making landing in Louisiana as a Category 2.

Edward-Isaac Dovere: Hillary Clinton says she was right all along: "The biggest factors she blames for her loss -- disinformation, Vladimir Putin, and America's deep political divide -- will still be problems even if Trump loses, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee warns." I'm occasionally tempted to subscribe to The Atlantic, only to find it a bit rich for my taste. Articles like this make me glad I didn't nibble. At this point, who the fuck even cares what she thinks? Let alone thinks about herself!

Dan Friedman: Elliott Broidy, former top Trump fundraiser, will plead guilty to violating foreign lobbying law.

Umair Irfan: California's largest wildfire on record is now a million-acre "gigafire": "The August Complex Fire in North California has now burned an area larger than Rhode Island."

Eric Levitz: Mike Lee opposes democracy -- but supports rule by 'the people'. I don't want to go too deep here, but one should point out that the objectives Lee touts as more important than democracy -- "liberty, peace, and prosperity" -- haven't actually been secured by the Republican antiversion (or perversion) of democracy. The US jails more of its citizens than any other nation, with right-wing Christians especially aggressive at denying and impeding popular rights (except, of course, gun ownership). The US has been constantly at war since 2001, and spent most of the time after 1945 cycling between hot and cold wars. Widespread prosperity has declined considerably since Reagan won in 1980, and the last two Republican presidents ended their terms with major recessions. It's easy enough to understand why Republicans like Lee don't want to let the people decide their own fates, but a superior grasp of liberty, peace, and prosperity isn't a valid reason.

Ilan Pappe: Israel's Peace Process was always a road to nowhere.

Alex Pareene: Would the GOP use Trump's Covid diagnosis to start a war? "Why hawks are determined to blame a foreign enemy for the president's health woes." I rather doubt the thesis, but since Trump not only recovered but decided getting Covid-19 was a blessing, I think we can put these worries aside. Still, it is often the case that when a crisis strikes, the hawks are first to roost -- recall Alexander ("I'm in charge here") Haig when Reagan was shot.

Vijay Prashad/John Ross: Why America's economic war on China is failing.

Zoë Richards: Graham says black people and immigrants can be successful with a caveat: They "just need to be conservative, not liberal." In other words, they need to toil obediently for the rich, eschewing any feelings of solidarity with people like themselves, or the vast majority of Americans. He cited examples, like Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley "as people of color who rose to success at least in part due to sharing that state's 'values.'"

Charlie Savage: Nicholson Baker's maddening search for the truth.

Mattathias Schwartz: The FBI team sent to 'exploit' protesters' phones in Portland.

Alex Ward:

Matthew Yglesias:


   Mar 2001